Lake County Forest Preserves recognized for its work

Buffalo Creek Reservoir project earns Regional Resilience Award from CMAP

LIBERTYVILLE -- The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning honored the Lake County Forest Preserve District through its recent Regional Excellence Awards program during its inaugural State of the Region event.

The Lake County Forest Preserve District received the Regional Resilience Award for its collaborative work on a $9.7 million project to expand the Buffalo Creek Reservoir and increase the region’s resiliency against flooding, according to a news release. The project expanded the capacity of wetland terraces, improved erosion control and added recreational amenities for users. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated the project will reduce future flood damages by more than $26 million.

“We are proud to partner with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to help fund this larger regional project and achieve our shared goals of providing improved public access, natural resource restoration and reducing flooding,” Angelo Kyle, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves, said in the release. “Set amid bustling suburbs, Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve in Long Grove is an emerald island offering a quiet place to relax and recreate with nature.”

“The most recent public access improvements at Buffalo Creek include the addition of 1.7 miles of trails, seven new boardwalks, two scenic overlooks, and 30 additional parking spaces,” Alex Ty Kovach, executive director of the Lake County Forest Preserves, said in the release. “Restoration efforts included 19 acres of new wetland, 60 acres of new upland prairie and savanna, 1,000 native trees and shrubs and a massive expansion of the reservoir that will provide an additional 180 acre-feet of flood storage.”

CMAP honored a total of five winners that exemplify the hard work being done to make northeastern Illinois a better place to live, work and do business. A panel of judges selected two visionary leaders and three planning projects that prioritize equity, strengthen regional resiliency and make communities more economically competitive.

“Today, CMAP paid tribute to some of our partners for serving the public with perseverance and passion,” CMAP Executive Director Erin Aleman said in the release. “The stories behind each project and leader highlight why our region remains a vibrant place that connects people to opportunities.”

Other winners:

Equity with Impact Award: Austin Coming Together

A community organization, Austin Coming Together mobilized residents, organizations and financial resources to improve quality of life for the people living in this Chicago west side neighborhood. More than 500 community stakeholders contributed to the Austin Forward. Together plan, shaping strategies to address economic development, education, housing and other issues. The plan has generated over $14 million in investment since it launched in 2018.

Partners for Progress Award: Village of Bedford Park

The village of Bedford Park worked with officials in Cook County and the Regional Transportation Authority to develop and launch Connect2Work, an innovative pilot program that allows users to select the right transportation option for their needs. Travelers in the area can use a mobile app to find the fastest available public transit route, free shuttle rides during rush hour and discounted rates for late-night and last-mile rides. More than 2,700 rides have been booked through Connect2Work since it launched in December 2020.

Visionary Leader Award: Dr. Brian Sager, former mayor of Woodstock, and Allison Swisher, director of public utilities for Joliet

As mayor of Woodstock for 16 years, Brian Sager worked to make the city more inclusive and economically competitive before retiring from local office earlier this year. Under Sager’s leadership, Woodstock accomplished numerous feats, including expanding transportation options for residents. From supporting arts and culture to improving quality of life for senior residents, Sager led multiple efforts to make Woodstock a better community.

Allison Swisher recently led Joliet through securing an entirely new water supply. She gathered representatives from all over western Will County and formed a planning group to study its depleting groundwater source. Swisher also launched Rethink Joliet Water to explore different water source alternatives, promote water conservation and provide a regional solution. Joliet currently is designing infrastructure to transport sourced water from Lake Michigan.