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updated: 3/22/2012 2:41 PM

Cook County forest preserves surveying camping interest

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Submitted by Forest Preserve District of Cook County

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County is in the process of developing a new Camping Master Plan.

The plan will analyze the effectiveness of existing camp programs, and assess whether there is a need within the county for additional camping experiences and programs to engage broader populations, such as families, retreat or reunion groups, day camps and people with special needs. The plan will also look at forms those opportunities might take, including overnight camping as well as day camps.

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Public input will play an important role in developing the new Camping Master Plan. Through April 30, a survey will be available online at fpdcc.com/camping. Hard copies will also be available at the six nature centers located throughout the county and there will be a mobile version for people using smartphones. Cook County residents are encouraged to voice their opinions by filling out the survey.

"Camping is a phenomenal way to introduce people, especially children, who live in urban areas to the natural environment," said forest preserve district general superintendent Arnold Randall. "We are eager to hear from Cook County residents to understand how we can make this program work for them."

The forest preserve district currently operates three overnight camps that are rented out to organized youth groups, including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. In 2011, approximately 5,000 people participated in camping stays at these three facilities. Three additional overnight camps are operated on district property by other organizations. There are no opportunities for adult and family camping within the district at this time. The district also issues day camp permits to youth organizations that wish to utilize district property on per day use.

Following the public survey, the district will host a series of public meeting to generate additional ideas and feedback. The dates and locations for these meetings will be posted on the forest preserve district's website at camping.fpdcc.com. The final plan is expected to be released in August 2012.

Established in 1914, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County is the oldest and largest forest preserve system in the nation, maintaining more than 68,000 acres of open land for the education, pleasure and recreation of the public. The district strives to protect and restore the county's diverse ecosystems, so all our unique native plants and animals can live and thrive. Each year, more than 40 million people use these lands and facilities to enjoy or study nature, bicycle, hike, fish, cross-country ski, picnic, golf, canoe or simply relax in a large preserve that leaves urban life behind. For information on the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, visit fpdcc.com.

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