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Liberty Prairie Reserve

Liberty Prairie Reserve encompasses nearly 6,000 acres in Lake County, over half of which have been permanently protected as conserved open space through a network of natural landscapes and farmland.

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About the Liberty Prairie Reserve

Here, a community of advocates and stewards, passionate about conserving land and wildlife, come together to live with a sensitivity towards nature, create a sense of place with the land, and enhance habitat for wildlife on the scale needed to thrive.

Named after a rare native prairie, the Liberty Prairie Reserve was established in 1991 through a comprehensive plan adopted by the Lake County Forest Preserve District, Libertyville Township, and a group of civic-minded private landowners. Today, nature is protected on both public and private properties, as farmland, nature preserves, and forest preserves. With this interwoven network of healthy lands, wildlife, and people, the Liberty Prairie Reserve is truly the heartbeat of conservation in Lake County.

In January 2018, Conserve Lake County merged into Openlands, and we are committed to continuing the work of Conserve in the Liberty Prairie Reserve. With our united capacity, we are better equipped to protect these lands, address traffic concerns, reduce invasive species and soil erosion, steward the native landscapes, and reach out to neighbors to grow our support.

Explore the Reserve

There are several ways to discover and enjoy the mosaic of sites comprising the Liberty Prairie Reserve, and we encourage you to explore the area for yourself! Below are highlighted but a few ways to get outside in the Reserve, including Oak Openings Nature Preserve, the regional trail system, Independence Grove Forest Preserve, and Prairie Crossing Conservation Community.

Regional Trail System

Openlands has helped to expand the trail system in the Liberty Prairie Reserve. The Casey Trail bisects the Liberty Prairie Reserve, connecting the Prairie Crossing Trail and the Des Plaines River Trail. Traveling along the Casey Trail, you will pass through the Liberty Prairie Nature Preserve, a protected open space enrolled in the Illinois Nature Preserve System. The Liberty Prairie Reserve trail system further connects to the county-wide trail system in Lake County, the Millennium Trail to the southwest and the Rollins Savanna trail system to the northwest. Additionally, you can continue along the extensive Des Plaines River Trail to the northeast or southeast, or explore the Des Plaines River Water Trail by launching your boat from Independence Grove Forest Preserve.

Independence Grove is the most popular Forest Preserve in Lake County. Located on the eastern boundary of the Reserve, Independence Grove Forest Preserve offers over six miles of trails for hiking, biking, and other outdoor recreation. You can also rent bikes and a variety of boats on-site and explore the 115-acre lake, enjoy a picnic, or take in the picturesque setting for a day outdoors! Launching from Independence Grove, you can explore the Des Plaines River by canoeing or kayaking along the Des Plaines River Water Trail.

Oak Openings Nature Preserve, owned and managed by Libertyville Township Open Space District, is an excellent place to start your visit to the Liberty Prairie Reserve. The site has a central location in heart of the Reserve and  connects to the regional trail system. From this site you can travel east along the Casey Trail towards Independence Grove Forest Preserve and the Des Plaines River Trail or you can head west to the Prairie Crossing trail. Here you can see a thriving prairie, migratory birds and other wildlife, and a stand of mighty oaks. If you’re looking to get your hands dirty, please join Libertyville Township for a volunteer workday!

Prairie Crossing Conservation Community

Located in Grayslake, Prairie Crossing is a nationally-acclaimed model of conservation. The groundbreaking conservation development was designed to combine the preservation of open space, accessible public transportation, and responsible development practices. Prairie Crossing is also home to the small farm incubator program of the Liberty Prairie Foundation.

In 2014, Openlands accepted responsibility for the conservation easement that protects substantial portions of the common natural areas in the subdivision.

Liberty Prairie Reserve Master Plan

In 2013, a group of public and nongovernmental organizations, including Openlands, developed a set of recommendations to complement the achievements of the original 1991 Reserve Master Plan. This updated plan looks to the next 20 years and envisions people restoring, enhancing, and enjoying the Reserve’s rich array of natural areas. Additionally, the Reserve’s agricultural heritage will be celebrated and continued in ways that support clean water, healthy soils, and diverse agricultural products and foods.

Today, we continue to breathe life into this revised Master Plan by working with landowners and partners to implement the recommendations. We are assisting Libertyville Township Open Space District as they expand core habitats for wildlife by converting more than 300 acres of farmland into native prairies, wetlands, and savannas.

The Planning Team for the Liberty Prairie Reserve Master Plan included Openlands, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), Lake County Forest Preserve District, the Lake County Departments of Planning, Transportation, and Stormwater Management, Liberty Prairie Foundation, Libertyville Township, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, and Conserve Lake County, which merged into Openlands in 2018.

Meet Our Expert Staff

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Conservation Attorney
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Director of Lake County Programs
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Landscape Ecologist
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