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Forest Preserve shares 2019 goals with legislators

2/27/2019, 7:02 p.m.
The Forest Preserve District of Will County shared its accomplishments and 2019 legislative priorities during a Legislators' Breakfast held Feb. ...
Forest Preserve officials met with legislators Monday, Feb. 25, to discuss the District's past accomplishments and 2019 legislative priorities during a Legislators' Breakfast at the Sugar Creek Administration Center in Joliet. Pictured from left to right are Greg Bales, special projects director for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Forest Preserve Board President Laurie Summers and Forest Preserve legislative consultant Brent Hassert. (Photo by Forest Preserve staff/Glenn Knoblock)

The Forest Preserve District of Will County shared its accomplishments and 2019 legislative priorities during a Legislators' Breakfast held Feb. 25 at the Sugar Creek Administration Center in Joliet.

"We had an incredible turnout for the breakfast," said Forest Preserve Board President Laurie Summers. "The event drew not only state legislators, but also federal representatives. After listening to the presentation, our elected officials know what our agenda is and where we need help on state and federal issues, and they're all going to work with us."

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Reps. Robin Kelly, Adam Kinzinger and Bobby Rush sent staff members to the breakfast meeting. Also in attendance were state Sen. Pat McGuire and state Reps. Margo McDermed, Nicholas "Nick" Smith and Larry Walsh Jr. State Sen. Laura Ellman and state Rep. Mark Batinick sent representatives.

During the meeting, which is held every two years to acquaint legislators with District issues, Chief Operating Officer Ralph Schultz summarized the Forest Preserve's accomplishments and goals, including the possible transfer of three parcels of state-owned land to the District. If the efforts are successful:

*Land east of the former Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet would be turned into open space for an underserved community.

*Parcels adjacent to State Police District 5 headquarters in Crest Hill would become part of Prairie Bluff Preserve, which would allow for habitat protection and restoration.

*Land in Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve in Park Forest and University Park, currently managed by the District, would become Forest Preserve property, allowing for greater federal and not-for-profit assistance in land management and improvement.

Schultz also urged legislators to include forest preserve land acquisition and capital improvement projects in any new state capital bill. And he asked those in attendance to work to reinstate, maintain or enhance state grant funding sources that assist the District in fulfilling its mission. Schultz noted that in the past 20 years, almost $249 million has been invested in the Forest Preserve. Of that, $32 million came from state or federal sources.

The District also will continue to support legislation that restricts contaminated materials from clean construction and demolition debris landfills, some of which are adjacent to forest preserves, Schultz added.

McGuire and McDermed both said they would continue to monitor the clean construction and demolition debris situation. The senators worked together on a bill regarding that issue last year, but it "never came to fruition," McDermed said. This year, the two will wait to see how the Illinois Supreme Court rules on a related case first.

"Let's see what the (Illinois) Supreme Court does; let's not run a bill if we don't have to," McDermed said. "But if we do need to, we'll be back."