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A plan to put a 10-foot wide concrete path through Perkins Woods has some neighbors concerned. They say it will change the character of the small 7.5-acre woods located between Grant and Colfax Streets east of Ewing Avenue and west of Lincolnwood School.
The Cook County Forest Preserve District is planning to replace two asphalt paths that cross through Perkins Woods with concrete paths, one of which will be 10-feet wide and the other 5-feet wide. The concrete will be colored light- to medium-brown. Another path that extends towards Lincolnwood School will be eliminated.
There will be posts at either end of the 10-foot wide path to keep out vehicles except those belonging to the Forest Preserve District. Bikes, strollers and wheelchairs will be able to access the path, said Cook County Board Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who has been involved in the project.
“My problem is with a 10-foot wide concrete pavement running smack through the middle of Perkins Woods,” said Libby Hill, volunteer steward of the woods. “I feel that it changes the character of Perkins Woods, which is now a little neighborhood woodland.” She added, “I am concerned that more vandalism such as graffiti and other problems will result from the increased access.”
Ms. Hill said she did not object to repairing the paths. “They have to be fixed. There’s no question about that. I give credit to Larry Suffredin for initiating the repairs.” She thought, however, it would be preferable to have five foot asphalt paths.
Sue Roberts, a neighbor who has monitored birds in the woods for 12 years, likewise said, “It would change the experience of the woods for those whose recreation is birding.” She added that many people come to the woods to enjoy wild flowers, and expanding the path
may impact many wildflowers. “We don’t understand the need for a 10-foot wide path,” she said.
Commissioner Suffredin said he had ongoing discussions with Ms. Hill about the alternatives and held a meeting at Perkins Woods for the neighbors. He said the Forest Preserve District obtained bids to replace the paths with asphalt paths that were 5-feet wide, but those bids came in higher than expected. He said the cost was higher because they were too narrow to be laid by truck and would need to be constructed by hand.
The next alternative was to construct concrete paths, which Mr. Suffredin said is preferable to asphalt because it does not contain chemicals that leach into the soil. The plan is to construct one path, 10-feet wide, so Forest Preserve trucks would have access to the woods. He said there are some ash and large buckthorn trees in the woods that will need to be removed on an ongoing basis, and truck access will facilitate their removal. Currently, trucks entering the woods leave ruts on either side of the asphalt paths, he said. Mr. Suffredin added that the 10-foot path would also allow access to monitor and maintain the woods.
Mr. Suffredin said he plans to schedule a community meeting after bids are submitted on the path. Bids are due on Aug. 15, and the County Board may discuss the project on Sept. 11. The Forest Preserve District will also be working to improve the ecological health of the woods following the loss of ash trees due to the Emerald ash borer.
“Perkins Woods is a priority for the Forest Preserve,” Mr. Suffredin said.