During its November meeting, the Forest Preserve Foundation board of directors approved four grants for the fall cycle totaling $122,530. The grants will go to support restoration/conservation, internships, volunteer training and recognition programs within the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
This latest round of grants increases the Foundation’s total giving since its inception to in excess of $1.2 million. Foundation grants serve a primary goal: increasing access for all to the Cook County Forest Preserves.
"Our mission calls us to increase our investments in the Forest Preserves of Cook County,” said Shelley A. Davis, Foundation president. “We are thrilled that our donors have helped us to underwrite paid internships in the Preserves for county youth, as well as give critical funds to restore more than 20 acres of public land to top ecological health.
"We believe making multi-year commitments compounds the impact of our donors’ investments," Davis added. "Thus, with the exception of the Online Volunteer Training program, the Foundation is renewing its support of three critical programs."
The programs and projects being funded during this grant cycle are:
Forest Preserve Experience/Conservation Corps ($60,000)
This five-week summer jobs program provides paid employment for young people whose families utilize the services of the Housing Authority of Cook County. In 2019, the Forest Preserve Experience Program (FPE) would engage a minimum of 50 high school youth (ages 14 to 19) with the potential to engage up to 84 youth if additional funding is secured by the executive director of the Housing Authority of Cook County or other outside philanthropy. The highly successful program had a 90 percent retention rate in 2018 (exceeding the previous year’s rate). The Foundation acknowledges funds received from the Central Indiana Community Foundation for this program. Proceeds from the Conservation Cup also support this grant. The Forest Preserves of Cook County’s Resource Management Department will manage the program.
Restoration of Cranberry Slough ($55,000)
Cranberry Slough Nature Preserve is the Forest Preserves’ top ecological priority. The 372-acre site is distinguished by its peat bog ecosystem and rolling upland woods and is the fifth oldest nature preserve site in Illinois. Cranberry Slough faces considerable challenges including brush and other invasive plants that create barriers between healthy pockets, limiting habitat and making it less inviting to visitors.
For this project, the Forest Preserves will remove 20 acres of honeysuckle shrubs and other invasive plants along 95th Street and the Cranberry Slough parking lot. Additionally, this project will provide re-sprout control in areas cleared of invasive brush last year to ensure the shrubs do not re-invade. Proceeds from the Conservation Cup were used to support this grant. The Forest Preserves of Cook County’s Resource Management Department will manage the program.
Online Volunteer Training ($4,500)
This project, a collaboration between the Morton Arboretum and the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s Volunteer Resource Department, offers online courses to support the Forest Preserves’ Path to Stewardship requirements and the Morton Arboretum’s regionalization of its Natural Areas Conservation Training Program. Providing online training to upcoming ecological stewardship leaders will provide a significant benefit to the Forest Preserves, as it enables volunteers to complete the Path to Stewardship training requirements online and advances the Next Century Conservation Plan’s goal to grow the number of certified stewardship leaders. This is a new project for the Foundation, supported via a grant from Wells Fargo. The grant will be managed by the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Office of the General Superintendent, Volunteer Resources Department.
Volunteer Recognition Program ($1,170)
This program recognizes volunteers whose time and services enhance the Forest Preserves. Volunteers who log their hours supporting restoration in the Preserves receive tokens of appreciation such as a hooded sweatshirt, field guides for various plants or a waterproof journal. For a fourth year, the Foundation received support via Comcast Foundation for this program. The grant will be managed by the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Office of the General Superintendent, Volunteer Resources Department.