ICYMI: Forest Preserves in Lake County

Even with their long and storied history, many people in Lake County are unaware of everything forest preserves have to offer.

Forest preserves are a way for public municipalities to protect natural resources and provide residents with a place to enjoy nature. Without these established protection areas many forests and animal habitats would be destroyed. People in our area would need to travel to find areas to hike, fish and enjoy the outdoors.

These preserves were established in 1957 by Ethel Untermyer. When Untermyer first moved to Lake County from Chicago, she and her three-year-old son Frank wanted to go walking in the woods. New to the area, Untermyer asked a neighbor where the nearest forest preserve was, she was stunned to discover that Lake County had none especially since, at that time, Cook County already had 47,000 acres protected, according to The Lake County Forest Preserves website.

Soon after, Untermyer set out to organize a county referendum to create the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Only four people came to Untermyer’s first meeting, but she persevered. She drove around the county, recruiting others and speaking with groups and local leaders.

In this time period, Lake County only had a population of approximately 300,000, but people were ready for a change. The first group to endorse Untermyer’s referendum was the Lake County Farm Bureau, “a not-for-profit membership organization solely supported by its 13,800 dues paying members,” according to its website.

On the day of the election in November 1958, the referendum passed with a majority of votes. Approximately twenty days later, the Lake County Forest Preserve Districts was established in a circuit court. After that, an advisory committee was formed with Untermyer as its chair. In 1961, four years after Untermyer and son Frank tried to walk in the woods, the first preserve in Lake County was established, The Van Patten Woods in Wadsworth.

Unfortunately, all of Untermyer’s hard work may have been forgotten, as many students at ACHS seem to have forgotten these preserves existed.

“It’s not advertised anywhere, I don’t really go outside a lot,” sophomore Shannon Price said. “I don’t get out to the town a lot to see what’s new or anything like that.”

Although some students may not be aware of the experiences nature has to offer, others are taking full advantage of the preserves Untermyer worked so hard to establish.

“[I go to preserves] once every two weeks,” sophomore Grace Hellen said. “I go running with Scout, my dog.”

In and around Antioch are many forest preserves that students can enjoy: Redwing Slough Forest Preserve, Sprenger Park, Cedar Lake Bog Nature Preserve, and Sun Lake Forest Preserve. One of the nearby forest preserves is even named after the founder of all of the forest preserves in the area: Ethel’s Woods Forest Preserve.

Although many are still allowing these preserves to go largely unappreciated, many residents of Antioch are visiting and enjoying these forest preserves that Untermyer dedicated endless hours and manpower to create.