Meeting with Cook County Forest Preserve 2004

General Meeting  September 29, 2004

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On Wednesday, September 29, the Edgebrook Community Association held a general
meeting at the Cook County Forest Preserve’s Volunteer Resource Center, formerly
the Edgebrook Clubhouse, at the Edgebrook golf course. Bill Koenig, Director of
the Resource Center, discussed the new program to get volunteers involved in the
management and maintenance of the vast Forest Preserve lands, numbering 68,000
acres throughout Cook County.

Before the presentation began, Mary Biesty, ECA president, announced that one
of the anticipated speakers for the meeting, George Michael, who was to discuss
his proposal for development of the former Fannie May candy store site, would
not be speaking due to a personal commitment. She also introduced Jim Ziaja, new
director of Wildwood Park, who asked the audience for input on existing park programs
and ideas for additional programs, including those for adults as well as children
and teenagers. Several suggestions were made for classes such as sewing and crafts.

Ms. Biesty discussed some of the current issues being addressed by the ECA. The
organization is preparing to send a letter to the Chicago Police Department about
residents’ concerns regarding what is perceived as slow CPD response time to reports
of suspicious incidents and the fear that the recent re-allocation of police resources
has negatively affected area safety. There is also concern about the appearance
of the signs at a local business located on Devon Avenue; and the ECA is planning
to formally address that issue. Ms. Biesty repeated what has been reported in
the local press about the proposed cellular phone transmission tower behind the
Nortown Cleaner store on Central Avenue, confirming that the alderman is attempting
to have the parcel of land downzoned. In response to several residents’ questions
about private contactors working on street improvement projects who leave debris
from their work and whose trucks do not provide contact information where complaints
may be directed, Ms. Biesty reminded the audience they can contact the appropriate
ward office and one of the audience members also suggested contacting the non-emergency
311 number to report complaints.

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Bill Koenig described his great admiration for the Edgebrook area and the woodlands
that are part of it and his awareness of how intimately the former clubhouse is
tied to the area’s history. He pointed out that the Center has been re-modeled
to conform with the American for Disabilities Act, and hopes that there will soon
be an area to display historical pictures and artifacts provided by the Edgebrook
Historical Society. He recognizes the perception that local groups which used
to conduct activities at the center feel “kicked out” by more stringent requirements
for liability insurance and some other issues, and promised to pursue the issues
that are affecting use of the Center. The Center is no longer a headquarters for
the Forest Preserve police, but the police chief for the district in which Edgebrook
is located is very receptive to community concerns. If citizens observe any suspicious
activity, including that by homeless people, on forest preserve land, they should
call 911; Forest Preserve police will address the activity.

Mr. Koenig described the increased recognition of the importance of volunteers
to manage and maintain Forest Preserve land. There are many roles for volunteers,
including clean-up, acting as docents for school groups and others interested
in Forest Preserve lands, being designated as certified arborists, and groups
willing to “adopt” Preserve property by committing to quarterly clean-up of a
designated area on Preserve land. One of the newer volunteer programs is for high
school students who wish to give service to the Forest Preserve as part of their
school volunteer service requirement; there will be a high school day on October
9 for students interested in the program.

Several audience members raised the issue of how volunteers are to be managed
by the Forest Preserve. Mr. Koenig pointed out that there is now a Forest Preserve
Advisory committee which will review projects on which the volunteers would be
working; he also told the audience that Petra Blix, past ECA president, is on
that committee and is very aware of citizens’ concerns about prior volunteer efforts
to re-create a prairie setting on Forest Preserve land. He agrees that the Forest
Preserve needs to spend adequate time with community members to achieve an understanding
of what their needs and goals are. He said that volunteers will now be required
to wear picture ID cards.

p9290143Several meeting participants expressed concern about parking at the Resource
Center, including the lack of lighting and the area in the lot that is still designated
for Preserve police. Mr. Koenig responded that he will go back to the Forest Preserve’s
general superintendent with the lighting issue but that the parking spaces will
probably be retained for official cars.

There were several questions raised about the Edgebrook golf course. In response
to a question about whether treatments used to maintain the course are environmentally
friendly, Mr. Koenig replied that the private contractor who now runs the course
is attempting to avoid use of pollutants. He also said that the contractor is
gradually improving the courses it manages.

by Elizabeth Monihan, Director, Meetings and Programs