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Forest Preserve District of Cook County celebrates centennial

Saturday, February 14, 2015
Daily Herald

 

Bruce Jens Johnson, grandson of Forest Preserves of Cook County founder Jens Jensen, and Jensen's great granddaughter, Marnie Wirtz, accept an honorary plaque from board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Bruce Jens Johnson, grandson of Forest Preserves of Cook County founder Jens Jensen, and Jensen's great granddaughter, Marnie Wirtz, accept an honorary plaque from board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Courtesy of Forest Preserves of Cook County/Miguel Zuno Jr.

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County Board of Commissioners marked its centennial on Feb. 11, 100 years to the day after its inaugural meeting.

"We recognize the dedication and passion of those who created the forest preserves we enjoy today, as well as the tens of thousands of people who have worked to protect and improve them over the last century," said board President Toni Preckwinkle. "This kind of achievement is only possible when people dedicate themselves to a bold and democratic vision of an improved community for all, and to the idea that the preservation of nature is essential for this region to thrive."

Members of the public and invited guests were greeted by naturalists with a small screech owl and a nonvenomous snake. Panels in the fifth floor elevator lobby displayed a timeline of forest preserves history, as well as historic photos from the early 1900s through the present. Guests were encouraged to add their names to a poster for inclusion in a time capsule.

Outreach staff were on hand to discuss current program offerings and give out commemorative posters and pins. They also handed out copies of the new "Explore the Forest" children's activity book, which will be available at the forest preserves' permits office in River Forest, at information and health fairs, and at other events.

The meeting recognized the contributions of the past, including remarks from Preckwinkle and General Superintendent Arnold Randall, as well as a resolution honoring the founders, landscape architect Jens Jensen and Prairie School architect Dwight H. Perkins. Several descendants of the founders and their families attended, including L. Bradford Perkins, Eleanor Grumman, Cornelia Grumman, Jim Warren, David Grumman, Bruce Johnson and Marnie Wirtz.

"I am sure that my grandfather would be very pleased with the efforts to expand the preserves and to restore many of the existing acres," said Perkins' grandson, Dwight H. Perkins II. "I don't believe he felt that his specific ideas and plans for them should be written in stone, and the direction in which they are evolving seems to me to be very positive."

"Today's preserves have grown to more than 69,000 acres, 11 percent of the county footprint," Preckwinkle said. "But we cannot take this inheritance for granted. The preserves are threatened by invasive species, climate change and other challenges. We must work harder than ever to ensure that we preserve healthy habitat for our native plant and animal communities. And we must ensure that all residents of Cook County, from all backgrounds, know about and have access to the preserves."

The forest preserves are well-positioned for their second century, she said, citing accomplishments including investing millions in habitat restoration, creating hundreds of new activity opportunities, acquiring the 397-acre Horizon Farms property in Barrington Hills and commissioning the Next Century Conservation Plan.

For more information, visit fpdcc.com.



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