The Preserve
of Highland Park
Start Date
November 2020
Grand Opening Date
June 2022
Location
1207 Park Ave. West
Budget
$1.7 Million

The Preserve of Highland Park located adjacent to the Recreation Center of Highland Park is a one-of-a-kind natural area for passive recreation that includes green lawns, nature-based play areas, specialized native gardens, restored woodlands, and walking and biking trails that connect neighborhoods, downtown Highland Park, and regional biking trails. Visitors can immerse themselves in the sights, sounds and experiences of nature and outdoor play.  The Preserve grand opening is scheduled for June 2022. (designated trails are open to the public during construction.)

Project Background

The Park District of Highland Park began the initial stages of converting the former golf course on the Highland Park Country Club (HPCC) property with the formal acquisition of the property from the City of Highland Park in fall 2018. Already a protected open space, the 100-acre parcel featured promising woodland, wetland and riverfront habitat areas, as well as interesting golf-related topography and features such as sand traps, meandering cart paths and river crossings. It was a rare opportunity for the community to have such a large open space available for passive recreation.  It also met a need for residents to have access to additional walking and biking trails identified in a Park District Community Attitude and Interest Survey from 2009 and 2013. 

A citizen advisory committee was formed in fall 2018 to brainstorm a master plan that could bring these elements together. In June 2019, following a community survey, public open houses and numerous committee meetings, the group presented its final plan that prioritized the natural environment and provided nature-based play opportunities and places to relax and explore in the outdoors, close to home. The resulting master plan was approved by elected officials of the Lake County Forest Preserve District, City of Highland Park and Park District board of commissioners in April 2020.  

Meantime, nearly 50 acres were seeded with native plants in planting zones that reflect the underlying soils and water conditions. Enhanced planting areas of live plants, especially in wetland and shoreline areas, provide structure and a sense of stewardship.

With funding from the IDNR’s OSLAD program approved in August 2020, the project moved into construction phase. On September 22, 2020, the Park Board approved Team REIL’s construction bid for $1,204,290 to complete amenities, trail work and restoration of the shoreline of the North Pond, a project funded through IEPA 319 grant with the assistance of the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission.

Funding for this project is provided in part by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. 

   

Features

  • Pond and Wetland Overlooks
  • Pollinator Garden
  • Nature Maze
  • Turtle Meadow and Sand Play Area
  • New and improved trail connections
  • Picnic and seating areas
  • Lawn spaces for play, picnics, programs, and events

Schedule

DescriptionDates
Construction Begins/Site PreparationOctober 2020
Phase I: Shoreline Grading, Overlooks, Trail Prep November - December 2020
Phase II: Ongoing Trail Work, Connecting Paths and AmenitiesJanuary - April 2021
Phase III: Plantings, Final Trail Work, Completion of AmenitiesMay - October 2021
Phase IV: Final Details and RestorationNovember - December 2021
Opening CelebrationJune 2022

Project Updates

Get the Latest News

May 11, 2022

It’s apple blossom season at The Preserve! Providing early blooming flowers is key to helping pollinators get through the lean months of spring. Five varieties of apple trees in the Pollinator Garden give honeybees a welcome boost.

May 11, 2022
April 14, 2022

Providing habitat for native birds is a key goal at The Preserve. We are excited to report that the American Woodcock (also known as the Timberdoodle) has been spotted nesting in grassy areas on the grounds! This stout little bird has a remarkable courtship display involving spiraling upwards of 250 to 300 feet and rapidly descending to impress prospective partners.
Please help us protect these birds and all wildlife by keeping dogs on leash at The Preserve.

April 14, 2022
April 7, 2022


It’s official! The Preserve is host to two Monarch Waystations — gardens that provide milkweed, nectar plants and shelter for Monarch butterflies throughout their annual cycle of reproduction and migration. The Demonstration Garden behind the Recreation Center/Highland Park Country Club and the Pollinator Garden located east of the North Pond Overlook were both certified by MonarchWatch.org as part of the regional effort to provide habitat in public and private spaces.

April 7, 2022
March 22, 2022


Portions of The Preserve natural areas were burned on March 16 to encourage early spring growth of native plants and discourage weeds.

March 22, 2022
January 27, 2022

Winter is a quiet time to enjoy The Preserve. New interpretive signs have been installed for each of the park’s amenity areas. Welcome signs with maps and trail markers are ready to be installed once the weather allows.

January 27, 2022
October 29, 2021

Here’s a fun way to learn more about The Preserve. Temporary informational signs have been posted throughout the park. Point your phone camera at the QR Code to download a colorful PDF with details about the park’s new amenities. See if you can find all 8! (Hint: there’s a map included at the Entry Plaza).

October 29, 2021
October 22, 2021

New journeys are possible now that the “Connector Trail” linking both sides of The Preserve across the Skokie River is complete! The path heads west across a footbridge to a wetland overlook (still under construction) and joins with the Gateway Path leading south to the Golf Learning Center. 
Funding for the Connector Trail is provided in part by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources OSLAD Program.

October 22, 2021
October 15, 2021


Exciting developments at The Preserve this week as the turtle climbing mounds gained their colorful shells! The two play surfaces represent spotted and painted turtles. Signage will be installed with turtle facts and photos. Picnic tables and a sand play table will add to the enjoyment.

Funding for the Sand Play area is provided in part by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources OSLAD Program.

October 15, 2021
October 8, 2021

The new Turtle Meadow at the far north end of The Preserve is a quiet area dedicated to turtle nesting habitat.  Shayna Zavell, a Highland Park resident, has been instrumental in researching their needs and helping prepare the right conditions, including full sun and sandy soil.  Old sand traps on the former golf course fit this bill and have been repurposed by adding sand and drought-tolerant plantings. In the future, we hope to invite volunteers to monitor the turtle’s progress.  For more information, contact rgrill@pdhp.org.

The Turtle Meadow is funded in part through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources OSLAD program.

October 8, 2021
October 1, 2021

This week, parts of The Preserve are looking a little greener than usual as contractors re-seeded areas along pathways and around new features to restore turf grass and native plants. A special green mulch mixed with water is spread over the top of the seeds to protect them as they grow. We ask that visitors give the new areas a chance to get established by staying on paths and keeping dogs on leashes!

October 1, 2021
September 24, 2021

One of the most anticipated features of The Preserve is the North Pond Overlook. This accessible platform, delivered on-site this week, will give visitors a new perspective on the many kinds of wildlife including wetland birds, turtles, and fish that enjoy this large pond. 

Funding for the North Pond Overlook is provided in part through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources OSLAD program. 

September 24, 2021
September 17, 2021

A significant milestone has been achieved by completing the path paving on the east side of The Preserve. Crews are currently restoring the path edges with turf and native seeds that can be mown to create additional walking space and maintain a trim look in our native areas.

Funding for improved pathways is provided in part through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources OSLAD program.

September 17, 2021
September 10, 2021


Natural Areas volunteers welcomed Eleanor Schumacher, Project Wingspan Illinois State Coordinator, in a visit to The Preserve this week.

The Preserve is one of many sites where the seeds of pollinator-friendly plants are collected and then distributed around the Midwest region to create additional habitats for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. For more information on Project Wingspan, click here.

September 10, 2021
September 1, 2021

Contractors will be busy at The Preserve on September 2 and 3 with paving services planned throughout the park. Visitors are reminded to stay on designated paths and be aware of truck activity in the Recreation Center parking lot.

Funding for improved pathways is provided in part through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources OSLAD program.

September 1, 2021
August 30, 2021

Natural Areas volunteers are busy collecting seeds as part of the District’s commitment to the Illinois Monarch Project. Seeds from pollinator-friendly native plants will be processed and shared with other partners through Project Wingspan. The goal of both programs is to increase habitat for butterflies and other pollinators throughout the region.

August 30, 2021
August 19, 2021

Two key elements of The Preserve trail network were dug this week. The final leg of the Connector Trail that connects the park across the Skokie River was prepared for surfacing as was a short but crucial segment linking visitors to the gazebo and ponds near the Recreation Center.  Funding for trail restoration and development is provided in part through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources OSLAD program.

August 19, 2021
August 4, 2021


Five varieties of apple trees were installed in the pollinator garden this week. Funding for the pollinator garden is provided in part through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources OSLAD program.

August 4, 2021
July 28, 2021

There was a lot of activity at The Preserve this week as contractors began to prepare pathways for restoration throughout the site.  When the park is complete, there will be several major looping paths and access across the Skokie River to the adjacent Golf Learning Center.  Funding for path work is provided in part through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources OSLAD program.

July 28, 2021
July 8, 2021

Maintenance continues at The Preserve to help establish the many new landscape features.  There are six areas set aside as “greens” of mown grass where games, picnics and events can take place in the future. Turtle Meadow, Savanna Picnic Grove, The Green, The Gazebo, Entry Plaza/Group Exercise and Reflection Green are all managed with ongoing mowing by Parks crews. Crews also keep mown edges on paths that are currently open for walking.  In other areas, mowing is restricted to provide habitat and a transition between greens and natural areas, like “rough” on a golf course. A side benefit of these “no-mow” areas has been that oak tree seedlings have taken root to provide us with new trees in the future!

July 8, 2021
June 21, 2021

Due to construction taking place in the new Nature Maze, the inner loop of the red trail will be closed.  An updated trail map is found here.  We apologize for any inconvenience. Watch this space for updates and please remember to stay on designated paths for safety.

June 21, 2021
June 17, 2021

More than a dozen species of pollinator-friendly plants (over 600 in all) have been installed in the new Pollinator Garden at The Preserve. These groupings will provide a constant source of pollen (protein) and nectar (carbohydrate) for butterflies, bees, moths, and other pollinators.  Funding for the Pollinator Garden is provided in part through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources OSLAD program.

June 17, 2021
June 3, 2021


This week at The Preserve, crews planted ribbons of native plants leading to the North Pond as part of a state-level effort to make our waterways clean and healthy. Hundreds of plants were installed along two water pathways called swales. Swales are areas where water concentrates as it flows across the property during storms. Eventually this water makes its way to the North Branch of the Chicago River (Skokie River) which runs along the west side of the property.  Native plants help reduce soil erosion which can lead to water pollution and filter pollutants such as excess phosphorus and nitrogen. This work was funded in part by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.

June 3, 2021
May 28, 2021

Many pollinator-friendly plants were blooming at The Preserve this week. Prairie Smoke is showing off its feathery flowers and receiving bee visitors in the native plant demonstration garden. Last Saturday, volunteers from Gratitude Generation helped plant 200 stems of milkweed and other plants donated by Project Wingspan. We look forward to seeing what those blooms bring!

May 28, 2021
May 21, 2021

Several seating areas were under construction this week at The Preserve. One was the stone council ring which takes center stage in the park’s new Nature Maze. This area will be planted with native shrubs to form a fun and accessible pathway for exploration as well as a shady spot to gather and enjoy the sights in the adjacent oak savanna.  Work also began on the Entry Plaza with permeable pavers and stone seating. Funding for both these elements is provided in part through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources OSLAD program.

May 21, 2021
May 14, 2021

Work began on the North Pond Overlook this week at The Preserve. In the future, visitors will be able to enjoy water’s edge views of the 5-acre pond and the many species of birds that are found there. At the north end of the pond, a view seating area is taking shape, carved into the hillside of a former golf green. The pond is a major feature in the landscape and The Preserve advisory committee sought to build in several ways to enjoy it. 

May 14, 2021
May 5, 2021


Work started on the special amenities at The Preserve, construction of new connecting trails, and the north loop of the red trail reopened. The Sand Play Area amenity will feature a family-friendly picnic area where kids can climb molded turtle sculptures and sift in the sand while looking for turtle tracks and other “fossils.” New trails were completed that will provide additional loop options for park visitors. While the main park is closed for construction, designated trails remain open. Please remember to keep dogs leashed and be courteous of our neighbors.

May 5, 2021
April 20, 2021

Due to the construction of connecting trails, a portion of the north loop of the red trail at The Preserve is closed.  Once the new access path is complete (anticipated within two weeks) the trail will be reopened.  For a map of the closed trail, click here

April 20, 2021
April 12, 2021

Grading and initial planting around the North Pond shoreline is complete. Work has begun on the Connector Trail that will link The Preserve property on both sides of the Skokie River. Overlooks for the North Pond and Gateway Path (on the west side of the river) have been manufactured (off-site) and will be delivered for installation soon.

April 12, 2021
December 14, 2020

A new path extension linking The Preserve to the existing north-south Highland Park Trail is now open.  This new connection gives users of the popular trail access to additional paths in The Preserve during construction. Final surfacing will be completed in spring along with other path improvements. Click here for a trail map. At the same time, crews are working on the North Pond overlook and shoreline restoration. Seeding of native plants around the shoreline will provide a buffer to help with water quality and additional habitat.

December 14, 2020
October 23, 2020

Construction is expected to begin November 1, 2020!   When completed, The Preserve’s amenities will include improved pathways, a pond overlook, gardens, seating, play areas, signage and a restored north pond shoreline with native plantings and vegetated swales.  During construction, some paths will be closed.  Several looping trails will remain open to visitors, as will the North-South Bike Trail on the property’s east edge. Click here for a trail map.

October 23, 2020
September 22, 2020

The Preserve took a major step forward as the Park District of Highland Park Board of Commissioners awarded a construction contract in the amount of $1,204,290 to Team REIL Inc. of Union IL, following a competitive bid process.  Construction is scheduled to begin in November.

September 22, 2020
January 17, 2020

The Illinois Governor’s Office announced that Highland Park was among those agencies selected for funding for the Illinois Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant.  As a result, the Park District will receive $400,000 that will be used for trail work, park amenities, landscaping and signage at Community Park. 

January 17, 2020
January 7, 2020

In December 2019, the Community Park Master Plan was updated to reflect the Park District’s receipt of grant funding for Shoreline Restoration of the North Pond made available through the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission.  Funding for this portion of the project is provided, in part, by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.

January 7, 2020
June 10, 2019

Interested residents joined Park District staff, advisory committee members and Park Board to view final details of the Community Park plans.  Advisory committee member Peggy Luce gave an informative wrap-up of the planning process and Hey and Associates made a powerpoint presentation to highlight the key elements of the new park.

June 10, 2019
March 5, 2019

The Park District held the final Advisory Committee meeting to share details of design including materials, plantings and form for key elements on the property.  Next steps will include a public meeting and approval by the Park District Board of Directors.

March 5, 2019
February 5, 2019

As design plans take shape, the Park Board asked staff to begin outlining approaches to naming the new park.   Until a formal name is adopted, we will begin to refer to the property as the community park at the Recreation Center of Highland Park.

February 5, 2019
January 16, 2019

More than 50 guests came to the District’s public open house on January 15 to view concept plans for the project.  Attendees had a chance to watch a video overview of the project, see renderings depicting proposed nature play, paths, gathering areas, as well as a chance to review maps that show how those elements are arrayed in activity zones throughout the park.  Materials that sparked the senses were on display to highlight the areas for quiet enjoyment and habitat that are found throughout the property.   Staff gathered input from participants at four different stations.   The information collected will be used to guide the design of the park.

January 16, 2019
December 19, 2018

On December 4,  Park District staff presented an updated version of the Highland Park Country Club (HPCC) property conceptual plan to the Board of Directors.   Watch for information about our public meeting in January when we will invite the community to share their thoughts on the conceptual plans.

December 19, 2018
November 15, 2018

The  Advisory Committee met on Wed., Nov 14 to review and provide input on the project concept plan.  Below are highlights of the plan:

Vision – to provide our community with an inter-generational experience with multiple levels of activity and engagement in the surrounding natural habitats.

Theme – “Play in Nature

Foundation – green play spaces surrounded by thoughtfully arranged native plantings that reflect the functionality of the land.

Amenities –  spring organically from the land and feature simple ideas for augmenting enjoyment of desired activities of walking, leisure biking, cross country skiing and running, access to water, picnicking, and exploring nature.

Northern Zone – Privacy is created  with grassland habitat for birds

Middle Zone – an area for family and group activity, that takes advantage of water features and access to parking in the Golf Learning Center

Southern Zone  (closest to the Recreation Center) –  answers community desire for play close into the building that might be especially attractive to users of the recreation center, future senior center and also families with young children.

November 15, 2018
October 2, 2018

As we enter the final stages of negotiation for the purchase, the Park District of Highland Park is beginning the initial stages of converting the Highland Park Country Club (HPCC) property to a new unique natural area and passive recreation park.  Seeding of native grasses and flowers is planned for late fall in areas identified as best suited for habitat.  The first Advisory Committee meeting was held on September 26.  The committee provided feedback on potential recreational opportunities for the site, gained direction to ensure that our plan addresses the needs of our diverse community and neighbors, and heard examples of other sites that can serve as inspiration for the planning team.

To view the presentation from the Advisory Committee meeting, click here.

October 2, 2018