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Cook County expands Orland Grassland preserve
Forest district buys additional 162 acres for southwest suburban site

Thursday, October 11, 2012
Chicago Tribune
by Ashley Rueff

A new piece of land was added to the Cook County Forest Preserve District holdings this month, pushing the total Orland Grassland preserve area in the southwest suburbs to more than 1,000 acres.

Only 179th Street, which borders the new 162-acre tract to the north, separates that site from the existing 960-acre preserve in unincorporated Cook County.

"What made this particular piece of property attractive to us was its size, its proximity to the existing grassland," said district spokeswoman Karen Vaughan.

On Oct. 5, the Forest Preserve District closed on the parcel, to be called Orland Grassland South, buying it for $8 million from the Sharon V. Kopman Trust, Vaughan said. The money comes from a $110 million bond issue made by the district in June, of which about $25 million is intended for land acquisitions, according to the district.

The parcel is used for farming and has belonged to the same family for several generations, Vaughan said. It's been in the forest district's sights for more than a decade and was in its 2000 and 2012 land acquisition plans.

"At this point, we were able to get what we felt was really a good deal on the site," she said. "Because it was an attractive property for us, we're really happy about the acquisition."

It also gets the forest district 162 acres closer to its goal of owning 75,000 acres, which is the maximum allowed under statute, Vaughan said.

The parcel stretches from 179th on the north to 183rd Street on the south, from 104th Avenue on the west to the White Mountain Golf Course and the St. Xavier University campus in Orland Park on the east. The Orland Grassland, however, stretches from 104th on the west to La Grange Road on the east.

Planning for the new 162 acres will begin in 2013, but Vaughan said she expects it to include habitat restoration. Restoration projects are already well under way at the adjacent Orland Grassland.

"Everything is on the table at this point," she said. "We would look at any compatible recreation uses such as trails, but certainly habitat restoration would be a centerpiece of what would happen there."

Until plans are finalized, she said it's possible the Forest Preserve District will lease the land to farmers.




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