Community Connections in the Palos Region
Chicago Area Mountain Bikers Association is a volunteer organization of hundreds of mountain bike riders that work to educate bicyclists, promote responsible trail use, prevent trail closings, maintain and build multi-use natural surface single-track and free ride cycling opportunities in the Chicago area. CAMBr seeks to promote trail and free-ride bicycling through stewardship, environmental and social responsibility, education, and a spirit of cooperation among all trail users, the conservation community, and governing bodies. CAMBr hosts volunteer workdays in the Palos region and other mountain bike trial sites to maintain riding trails and promote good stewardship of the forest preserves. See the Palos Riders group on Facebook for more information.
Friends of the Forest Preserves mission is to unite people to protect, promote, and care for the forest preserves in Cook County. Founded in 1998 by a small group of concerned citizens, the Friends community is now a force of thousands working together to ensure that land, water, and life will always thrive in the forest preserves. They are the only independent nonprofit organization solely focused on the forest preserves in Cook County. Watch a video about Friends of the Forest Preserves here. A key program of the FOTFP, particularly in the Palos region, is the Conservation Corps. This important program recruits high school students, young adults, and adults, often from low-income neighborhoods of the South and West Sides of Chicago, to learn about conservation while gaining vital leadership and team work skills.
Crooked Creek flows through many sites of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Forest Preserves covers nearly 70,000 acres—an impressive 11 percent of Cook County. Established in 1915 to preserve and protect natural lands for the enjoyment and education of the public, the Forest Preserves include not only forests, but prairies, wetlands, and other natural landscapes—including some of the rarest and highest quality ecosystems in Illinois. Many forest preserves follow river valleys or creeks. Some cover rolling, wooded highlands. Still others occupy low, sandy ancient lake plains. These diverse and fascinating places support distinct communities of plants and animals, from red-headed woodpeckers and blue-spotted salamanders to Hine’s emerald dragonflies and large-flowered trillium—all species that require wild habitat to survive.
Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves supports Illinois’ Nature Preserves System by advocating for and finding increased support, resources, funding, and staff for the system and assisting local volunteer communities as they help restore and care for their Illinois biodiversity reserves. Watch a video about Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves here.
The INPC assists private and public landowners in protecting high quality natural areas and habitats of endangered and threatened species; in perpetuity, through voluntary dedication or registration of such lands into the Illinois Nature Preserves System. The INPC promotes the preservation of these significant lands and provides leadership in their stewardship, management and protection. Permanently protected by state law, nature preserves are private and public lands that have rare plants, animals, or other unique natural features. Ranging in size from one acre to more than 2,000 acres, nature preserves protect tall grass prairies, oak groves, sandstone bluffs, wetlands, bogs and other threatened natural areas. These lands are the last remnants of the Illinois wilderness, which provides homes for endangered species.
Lake Katherine in Palos Heights is an 85-acre non-profit park that includes woodlands, prairie, wetlands, gardens, and a 10-acre lake. The park grounds are open year-round. Lake Katherine provides year-round activities and fun for the whole family. The park offers approximately six miles of hiking trails, including a scenic trail around the lake and near a beautiful waterfall. The Nature Center includes educational displays and live animal exhibits. Lake Katherine hosts special events for the public and a variety of educational programs for children all year long. By engaging the public with Lake Katherine, and by applying current stewardship practices to this reclaimed land, Lake Katherine creates a place that invites human interaction with natural spaces through learning about nature, expanding knowledge of ecological practices, and welcoming recreation and reflection.
The Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center is one of six nature centers of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. It opened in 1955, and has educated and delighted generations of families in Cook County. In 2010 a new visitor center with live animals, exhibits and more joined the old school.
Founded in 1990, the Palos Restoration Project is a cooperative effort with the Forest Preserves of Cook County to preserve and restore the native ecosystems of the Palos and Sag Valley Region through a volunteer network that fosters compatibility between wildlife and recreational uses of the land to benefit natural systems for generations. Visit their Facebook page here.