While much of the news of the day centered on construction and development, another story in that May 23, 1926, edition of the paper announced a quest to create a countywide forest preserve district. This movement to save the county’s “timber tracts” was spearheaded by the Joliet Rotary, and it was led by Dr. W. Henry Wilson, chairman of the Rotary’s Forest Preserve Committee. Wilson, a nationally known pathologist who worked at Silver Cross Hospital, stressed the benefits of preserved open space.
“It is accessible to the public, for pleasure and recreation, and is beautifying to the county,” he told the Joliet Evening Herald-News.
He noted that the land will be preserved for “reforestation.” And he stressed that forest preserve land would remain in its natural state and would not become a “fancy park.”
Wilson also lamented the fact that nearly two-thirds of the state’s 6 million acres of forest land had already been stripped of its trees.
While the forest preserve moved to protect forests and precious wetlands found along the county’s many creeks and rivers, sites with notable history elements also were protected.
Purchased in 1931, McKinley Woods in Channahon is home to remnants of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, which was later used as a POW camp for a brief time during World War II.
Joliet Iron Works, acquired between 1991 and 1997, protects remnants of an iron manufacturing facility that operated in Joliet from the late 1800s to the early 1900s and gave Joliet its nickname of “City of Steel and Stone.”
Well over 75 percent of the foundations and ancillary structures on the site that were in operation still remain visible to the public.
The 37-acre Vermont Cemetery includes a 1-acre pioneer cemetery that features high quality prairie remnants that date back to pioneers days.
For decades prior to the District taking it over, the cemetery lay in neglect except for occasional cleanup.
In 1970, volunteers donated funds to construct a six-foot- high chain-link fence around the cemetery to stop trespass, vandalism, theft of gravestones, trampling and digging of plants. This original enclosure has since been replaced with wrought iron fencing.
It was dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve in 1999, which provides permanent protection for the natural resources at the preserves.