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American Society of Landscape Architects


February 2004 Issue

Mining for Open Space
Outside Chicago, a case study in how a quarry operation can finance land conservation.
By Frank Edgerton Martin

The same sprawl that threatens open land around cities sometimes creates the economic opportunity to develop its recreational potential. Because booming housing and road construction demand large quantities of sand and gravel, a working quarry in fringe suburbia can prove immensely profitable during decades of housing growth. Such quarries, when located on parkland, can finance park expansion and development.

Copyright 2003 Jess Smith/ Photosmith

In the northwestern Chicago suburbs, Lake County's Independence Grove Forest Preserve is an impressive model of a sand and gravel quarry reclaimed for recreation. Offering the beauty of old growth forests as well as numerous lake-oriented activities, this 1,100-acre park, now nearly complete after 20 years of planning and construction, exemplifies private/public sector collaboration and signals the next generation of design in the Forest Preserves. The Forest Preserves were first established throughout Illinois essentially as country park districts. In 1905, naturalist landscape architect Jens Jensen and architect Dwight Perkins established the Cook County system to protect floodplains and other natural features ringing Chicago. Today the Lake County Forest Preserves District has 25,000 acres in holdings.

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