Since its founding in 2006, the Foundation has granted more than $3.06 million to support programs that increase access to the Forest Preserves of Cook County. These programs provide enriching summer internships to young people from low-income families; fund ecological restoration and trail maintenance work; offer opportunities to honor or memorialize a person or event with a tree planting or bench dedication. We believe that these programs benefit the community and the Preserves.​​

Forest Preserve Foundation priority programs include:

Conservation Corps |  Ecological restoration | Family programming | Tribute Gifts

2020 grants awarded 

Friends of the Forest PreservesForest Preserve Experience 2020 ($90,000 via Central Indiana Community Foundation): Supported a five-week paid summer jobs program for 97 youth served by the Housing Authority of Cook County.

Student Conservation AssociationChicago Conservation Leadership Corps ($50,000): Supported a six-week paid summer jobs program for 48 youth conservationists from Chicago and suburban Cook County.

Forest Preserves of Cook County – Forest Preserve Experience 2021 ($37,500): Supported a five-week paid summer jobs program for  72 youth served by the Housing Authority of Cook County.

Forest Preserves of Cook County – Cranberry Slough Restoration Phase IV ($37,500): To restore 11 acres of native oak woodland habitat to ecological health.

Forest Preserves of Cook County – Spring Creek Valley Headwater Restoration ($13,500 via Oberweiler Foundation): To restore six acres of native wetland to ecological health.

Forest Preserves of Cook County – Palos Trail System Restoration ($12,330 via REI Co-op): To restore five acres of land beside a mountain bike trail to full health, conserving native species and preventing soil erosion along an adjacent stream.

Free Spirit Media ($6,000): For production of the 2020 Forest Preserve Foundation  video. Free Spirit Media is a social enterprise that trains and employ youth creators and filmmakers.

Memorial and Tribute Giving Program ($7,778)

2019 grants awarded

Restoration of Cap Sauers Holding ‐ $250,000

Conservation Corps, Forest Preserve Experience - $75,000

Student Conservation Association - $50,000

Cranberry Slough Restoration - $25,000

Restoration at Galloping Hill Fen ‐ $10,000

Conservation@Home ‐ $5,000

Forest Preserve Experience Program - $11,200

Phase 1 of Oak Woodland Restoration at Schubert’s Woods - $4,500

Perkins Woods Shrub Plantings - $1,440

Planting at Brookfield Woods Forest Preserve ‐ $135

2018 grants awarded

Forest Preserve Experience Program — $75,000

Student Conservation Association (SCA) — $50,000

Developing the Next Generation of Outdoor Leaders: Curriculum and Training in Public Engagement — $27,500

2017 grants awarded

Forest Preserve Experience/Conservation Corps — $50,000

Youth Conservation Corps

Youth who have meaningful connections to the natural world, especially under the guidance of role models, form strong connections to nature and feel empowered to make a difference as stewards of their environment.  They also gain the many benefits of actively playing, exploring and/or working outside. Conservation Corps programs accomplish habitat restoration goals while providing teens with employment experience, science education, and a self-esteem enriching experience.

conservation corps
Members of the Conservation Corps assigned to Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center, summer 2019.
dan ryan woods nature play
Nature Play and Treehouse in Dan Ryan Woods. Photo by Cassandra West
nature art model
A model of the student-designed nature art that will be erected in preserves.

Family programming

The Foundation seeks to make sure everyone has access to the Forest Preserves of Cook County. We raise funds that support Nature Play areas, public nature-based art and camp gear libraries.

The Foundation and the National Recreation Foundation supported the Dan Ryan Nature Play and Recreation project that opened in July 2019.

A grant from the Foundation and CSX funded a public art project at the Forest Preserves General Headquarters and Trailside Museum  in River Forest.  Oak Park River Forest High School art students designed the sculptures,  constructed from buckthorn that had been removed  from Thatcher Woods.

cap sauers restoratio
Heavy equipment brought in during wintertime restoration work at Cap Sauers Holding Preserve.

Ecological restoration

Keeping the 70,000 acres of the Forest Preserves of Cook County ecologically healthy is a Foundation priority.  A healthy ecosystem benefits everyone. The Preserves provide natural habitats of many animals and plants. They aid with stormwater management. And all trees in the Preserves help improve our air quality.

To maintain our public lands takes many people—Preserves staff, volunteer stewards, Conservation Corps crews and hired contractors.

The Foundation supports this vital work by raising funds to supplement ongoing restoration projects in the Preserves. We have supported restoration projects in Cap Sauers Holding Preserves, Cranberry Slough, Shoe Factory Road Prairie and Galloping Fen. These efforts make the Forest Preserves more vibrant, resilient and welcoming for everyone.

Interested in getting involved?

Email Debra Walker Johnson, President, to discuss ways you can get involved in helping preserve, protect and educate others about all the Forest Preserve of Cook County has to offer.

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