I’m writing to urge RoundTable readers to vote “yes” for the tax increase for the Cook County Forest Preserves when you mark your ballot for the Nov. 8 election, and to share your support with your family and friends.

Perkins Woods in the winter of 2020-2021. (Photo by Mary Mumbrue)

This small tax increase, approximately $1.66 per month for the average taxpayer, is a tiny amount considering the enormous benefits provided by the current 67,000 acres of forest preserve land. For many people, the preserves offered a refreshing, lifesaving getaway during the early trying times of the pandemic. Visits to forest preserves doubled in the past two years.

The preserves don’t preserve themselves. They are no different from any amenity like a house or yard. They require attention and care. Shelters and bike paths need frequent attention to remain safe. Staff need the resources for necessary repairs, for new and expanding programs such as those that hire and train youth, and to support volunteers who care for the preserves.

The district needs to keep pace with its pension program. It also hopes to purchase additional acres in southeastern Cook County, where fewer acres have been protected.

The founders of the forest preserves at the turn of the 19th century to the 20th didn’t predict a pandemic, but they were concerned about the rapid pace of development of Chicago and the disappearing natural landscape that they felt provided necessary breathing room for the population. They were right. In addition to helping to preserve humans’ sanity, the preserves protect water and air quality, retain water during rainstorms and snowmelt and support wildlife.

Perkins Woods is Evanston’s small patch of the forest preserves, our connection to the larger holdings of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. It is named after the Forest Preserves’ founder, Dwight Perkins, an Evanston resident and neighbor of the woods. It is at the intersection of Grant Street and Ewing Avenue, next to Lincolnwood School.

Visiting its approximately seven acres will give you a sense of what much of northwest Evanston was like when it was the “Big Woods,” before it was settled, and how volunteers are working to manage its ecological health today. It is a microcosm of the larger holdings.

The Forest Preserves of Cook County are a gift from the farsighted civic-minded citizens from a prior generation to us. Voting yes on the referendum is our generation’s way of saying “thank you” and making sure that the gift continues for future generations.

Libby Hill
Volunteer Steward, Perkins Woods

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