Our Winter Membership & Awards Luncheon was quite entertaining for the nearly 150 people in attendance. Dewey Pierotti, President of the DuPage Forest Preserve and Monica Meyers, executive director of the Kane Forest Preserve, talked about many interesting threats to our forest preserve land by private interests. As less land becomes available for private development, and land prices continue to rise, more and more people are looking at all of the public open spaces that have been preserved as potential places to expand private development or make “improvements” to the forest preserves.
Dewey teed off on a recent proposal to build a parking lot in a forest preserve in Wheaton by an adjacent landowner who had total disregard for the high quality woods it would have destroyed. He mentioned several other attempts over the years to use forest preserve land for non-forest preserve purposes, including a private sculpture garden, moving the county fairgrounds to Danada Forest Preserve, and the most recent proposal to locate a large outdoor music venue in one of the forest preserves. Dewey was quite convincing that it is up to the citizens of DuPage County to ensure these open lands will be preserved for future generations, as it would only take an act of the state legislature to change current legal protections. Click here to read the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s Position Statement on Leasing/Selling District Land for Private Use.
Monica was just as entertaining. Her examples focused on how forest preserve neighbors tend to think the forest preserve land abutting their backyards is part of their property, too. She showed many examples of creative expansions of backyards into forest preserves including sheds and small buildings, formal gardens, patios and illegal dumping, and most impressive a large tree house that was designed by an architect and built by hired contractors. When the forest preserve demanded the neighbor remove the large structure, he was very upset and expected the forest preserve to pay for its removal. Wow! She emphasized how important it is that the public help be the “eyes and ears” of the district and report when these abuses occur.
All in all, it was a great luncheon that informed people of the challenges we face to keep our forest preserve lands preserved. Rest assured, as a “reasoned voice,” The Conservation Foundation will listen to all sides of the story and take appropriate action to ensure our open spaces remain open and protected for future generations.
Written by Brook McDonald, President/CEO