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Article updated: 11/23/2012 5:05 AM

DuPage forest, CN agreement means $3.1 million in improvements

By Elisabeth Mistretta

The DuPage County Forest Preserve District agreed this week to temporarily provide 5 acres of land to the Canadian National railroad at Pratt's Wayne Woods Forest Preserve;http://www.dupageforest.com/Conservation/ForestPreserves/Pratt__39 near Wayne so the company can make track improvements and better connections.

In exchange, CN will provide the district with facilities and land enhancements worth roughly $3.1 million.

"They are not using any district land permanently," said John "Ole" Oldenburg, office of natural resources director. "After the work is done, they are building new facilities on existing district resources and then creating habitat on existing land."

In an area called the Munger Connection, CN will use 5 acres in the north-central part of Pratt's Wayne Woods, DuPage County's largest forest preserve, to store material and equipment while improving tracks on its own property.

"They need to build these tracks, and they needed accessibility and a working area that would make their work efficient and safe," Oldenburg said. "They could have done that from the tracks, but that would have prolonged things dramatically."

In addition, as part of the construction, Oldenburg said workers will fill in a flood plain along Brewster Creek, which means they will need to use part of the land for compensatory water storage. The district will get to keep that storage area once work is done, he said, and forest preserve workers will collaborate with CN to make the area a functioning wetland habitat.

When the rail work is complete, CN will restore the site and perform both wetland mitigation and habitat improvements. Forest officials said that's essential because Pratt's Wayne Woods contains important habitat for wildlife that rely on open areas.

CN also will fund the design and construction of two new recreational facilities that already exist in Pratt's Wayne Woods. An off-leash dog area will be constructed in nearby Hawk Hollow Forest Preserve near Hanover Park and the model aircraft facility will be moved to a new spot off Stearns Road in Pratt's Wayne Woods.

Both facilities currently are located adjacent high-quality habitat. The forest preserve's long-range plan called to move them to other locations and restore those areas to a natural habitat.

But funding was an issue, and officials said this agreement provides the money to move forward.

Public comment on the project was invited during at least three meetings this summer, officials said. Work is likely to start before the end of this year and be complete by fall 2014.

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