DuPage forest district wants state designation for Springbrook
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org June 19, 2012 9:32AM
FILE PHOTO Naperville White-tailed deer at the Springbrook Prairie Forest Perserve in Naperville Wednesday.
If you go
Who: Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
What: Open house to spotlight the virtues of designating parts of Springbrook Prairie and Belleau Woods as state nature preserves.
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Monday
Where: Danada House, 3S501 Naperville Road, Wheaton
How: A brief presentation at 7:15 p.m. will be followed by questions and answers and gathering of audience input.
Plan B: Those who can’t come to the open house can submit feedback by email through Wednesday, June 27, at email@example.com.
Updated: July 21, 2012 6:03AM
Your morning run could be safe for a good long while — especially if you use Springbrook Prairie for that cardio wake-up.
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is pursuing declaration of most of the 1,840-acre natural area in near southwest Naperville as a nature preserve. The designation wouldn’t yield a marked difference from the vantage point of those who use the preserve, but it would keep the property’s future from straying off the path.
Erik Neidy, manager of natural resources for the district, said Springbrook is recognized as a well-designed open space. As home to nearly a dozen threatened bird species and the county’s largest grassland community, covering some 1,800 acres, the sprawling preserve merits extra consideration.
“Really what it is is an additional layer of protection that the state provides to these natural areas,” Neidy said. “In addition to the fact that we can maintain the core 1,600 acres of open space, this board can then have the state of Illinois declare this a state nature preserve. What that does is it preserves it in perpetuity for the reasons that these areas were established.”
It also stiffens the consequences for those do harm to natural areas. With the preserve designation, vandals would be subject to state penalties. Dogs would have to remain leashed, aside from those in the defined off-leash dog area, which would not be part of the state preserve. The model-aircraft field and picnic sites also would not be included in the newly protected area.
The district will host an open house Monday to showcase the positive effect of the existing state nature preserve designations at Churchill Woods and West Chicago Prairie forest preserves, and to highlight the reasons it is seeking the state’s stamp of approval for two more properties. Along with Springbrook, the district aims to designate the southern half of Belleau Woods as a nature preserve. The 121-acre site in Wheaton is predominated by hardwood forests, ponds and wetland areas.
Randy Heidorn, acting director of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, said the designation is made at the request of the land’s owner.
“It’s essentially an easement. The lawyers would call it a negative easement, in the sense that the owners are restricted from making certain changes,” Heidorn said. “Basically the idea is that the area is set aside for its natural qualities. ... It’s a determination that its highest and best use is to remain natural.”
There is no specific indication that developers have their eye on Springbrook’s natural assets, but that extra layer could bring added security.
“It’s as close as you can come in state government to permanently protecting an area from development,” Heidorn said. “Often public land owners do a very good job in maintaining it, and it’s never an issue, but when times get bad there are sometimes decisions made that compromise an area.”
In exchange for agreeing that nature will continue to predominate in the natural areas, the agencies that hold the deeds on the lands retain local control.
“The good thing is that the Forest Preserve still maintains ownership, management, maintenance,” Neidy said. “The Nature Preserves Commission really just relies on us to take care of the areas as they are, and to improve them.”