The donation was completed Wednesday, August 30, transferring ownership of the parcel known as the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve from Openlands, a Chicago-based regional conservation organization and land trust, to the Forest Preserves.
The property features 1 mile of Lake Michigan shoreline, three beautifully restored ravines and blufftops, accessible trails, overlooks and art installations. “We are thrilled this picturesque addition to Fort Sheridan is now in public ownership for all to explore and enjoy,” said Angelo Kyle, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves.
One of the few publicly accessible ravines and blufftop ecosystems in the area, Openlands assumed ownership of the site, part of the former Fort Sheridan Army Base, in phases in 2007 and 2010. The area is of statewide ecological significance and home to at least six threatened and endangered plant species. Thousands of migrating birds rest and refuel at the preserve each year.
“Openlands did a wonderful job creating accessible trails through the sensitive ravine and blufftop habitats, installing bridges and staircases and did exceptional restoration work,” said Paul Frank, Lake County Forest Preserves commissioner. “We look forward to building on their investments in the site and to incorporating the new acreage into the Fort Sheridan experience.”
As part of the transfer, Openlands donated approximately $1.36 million for conservation and habitat restoration on the property. The Preservation Foundation, the charitable partner of the Forest Preserves, received the gift and will establish a long-term endowment, which will support ongoing ecological management of the 71.55 acres. “The endowment will provide a permanent source of support to care for the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve at Fort Sheridan today and forever,” said Sarah Parekh, Lake County Forest preserves commisioner.
“This is the third time in the past 18 months that Openlands has transferred land to another qualifying entity in Lake County, protecting nature for all,” said Jerry Adelmann, president and CEO of Openlands. “As long-standing partners of the Lake County Forest Preserves, we’re pleased to see the preserve thrive as part of Fort Sheridan. We look forward to future partnerships, building on our 60-year track record as a trusted leader on behalf of land conservation in Lake County and across the region.”
Now that the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve has reopened, visitors have an important role to play. “We ask everyone to do their part when visiting the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve,” said Alex Ty Kovach, executive director of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “Visit only during open hours, which are 6:30 am until sunset, every day of the year, and remember that the entire site, including the shoreline, is closed at night.” Visitors are also encouraged to stay on the trails to protect the sensitive blufftop and ravine habitats.
A full public master planning process to incorporate the new property into the larger forest preserve is planned within the coming years.
Founded in 1963, Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives. Openlands works across area to advance nature-based solutions to climate change, improve the health and well-being of communities, and create a more verdant region for all.
About Lake County Forest Preserves
As principal guardian of Lake County’s open space and natural areas since 1958, we set the standard in nature and historic preservation, and in outdoor recreation and education. Acknowledged as a regional and national leader, we protect more than 31,000 acres of natural land and are the second-largest Forest Preserve District in Illinois.