Nature center, new trails part of Kendall County forest preserve upgrades

Kendall County Forest Preserve District has two upcoming projects that will enhance accessibility throughout different preserves and account for more nature exploration.

The Kendall County Forest Preserve District has plans to add a new trail connection and nature center to connect forest preserves and provide more opportunities for visitors to explore nature.

The district is drawing up final plans for the Mary M. Subat Nature Center, located at 4845 Eldamain Road in Plano within the Subat Forest Preserve, which will be closed until construction is complete.

Lavender-colored wild bergamot and the the grey headed coneflower with its yellow petals were blooming in the Subat Forest Preserve in Plano on July 28, 2023.

Construction is planned to begin early July, and if all goes accordingly, should be completed by Dec. 20. David Guritz, the forest preserve district’s executive advisor, said the center won’t be open for visitors until spring 2025.

The nature center will include an open air pavilion, fire pit with seating and exhibits that will be added after the center is fully constructed.

“Other preserve improvements will include an expanded parking area and school bus turn-around, and an ADA-accessible trail and wetland boardwalk extending from the Subat Forest Preserve parking area to the Eldamain and River Road pedestrian crossings,” Guritz said.

Subat Forest Preserve is home to wetland, woodland and prairie habitats, as well as a rare fen habitat located across Rob Roy Creek.

“That’s a pretty neat place to be able to program because it has a number of different habitat areas very close,” Guritz said. “So we can teach about wetlands and visit all of those places within a relatively short time frame.”

The estimated budget of the center is approximately $1.5 million, and its creation is in honor of the late John and Mary Subat. The pair bequeathed approximately $840,000 to the Kendall forest preserve district as well as sold selling them the land being used for the nature center. The district also received a $600,000 grant from the state earlier this year.

“The generosity of John and Mary Subat made this project possible,” Guritz said. “These state grant programs allow us to take local contributions and do more to provide these important recreations. So between local community programs and support from our local residents, this is what has made these projects possible.”

Naturalist Mark Harrington makes a point while leading a tour of Hoover Forest Preserve for the annual Kendall County New Year's Hike. (Mark Foster -

In addition to the nature center, the county is installing a Hoover-Fox River Bluffs trail connection. The trail will extend from the northeast corner of Hoover Forest Preserve at the Eldamain Road Bridge to Fox River Bluffs Forest Preserve.

“It really is going to open up that area for folks who like nature and the outdoors,” said Brian DeBolt, president of the forest preserve district. “We have a pair of bald eagles who have made their home from the bridge, and there are just a lot of great aspects of nature from here. [It’s] just a beautiful place.”

The extension is ¾ of a mile and will contain a 3/10-mile loop connecting to Fox River Bluffs.

“The equestrians had approached me a long time ago knowing that the [Eldamain Road] bridge was coming and wanted to know how we could, you know, blend the two forest preserves together, and so that’s when we all started to think about that,” DeBolt said.

The budget for the trail connection is $389,000. The county received a $189,000 TAP grant and asked for an additional $200,000 Recreational Trails Program federal grant through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The district will find out in May if it will receive the funds.

Construction has not begun on the trail, but if funds are awarded, the county predicts the project will be complete by fall 2025.

“This is a great step in connecting forest preserves, and this project gets us that much closer to eventual connection to the Silver Springs State Park, and that really opens up a lot of opportunities for local hikers, equestrians and bicyclists,” Guritz said. “We want to make sure we’re taking active steps to protect resources and still provide public access.”