Tollway, Cook County pair up on Orland Grassland project
By Mike Nolan email@example.com August 5, 2013 10:40PM
Restoration work of the Orland Grassland Preserve is shown in this file photo. The Cook County Forest Preserve District and the Illinois Tollway this week agreed to share in the cost of restoring a parcel directly south of the preserve.
Updated: September 7, 2013 6:02AM
The Illinois Toll Highway Authority will help pay for the cost of restoring the 162-acre Orland Grassland South property that the Cook County Forest Preserve District acquired last fall.
The farmland is just south of the 960-acre Orland Grassland Preserve, where the forest preserve district and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are nearing completion of an extensive project to weed out invasive plants and trees and replace them with native wildflowers and grasses. The goal with both sites is to return them to their condition prior to the area being settled.
Along with the restoration work, the tollway authority will also construct a new entrance road and parking lot, build washrooms and lay out a path system and boardwalks to provide public access to Orland Grassland South, which is bounded by 179th and 183rd streets and 104th Avenue and LaGrange Road.
The cost of the work has not yet been determined, according to the authority. It said work on the property will start in fall 2014 and be completed in 2019.
Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin last year tried to persuade forest preserve district officials to reconsider their $8 million purchase of the property — saying it was slated for future residential development in Orland Park’s long-range plan, and that the village had not been consulted on the purchase.
The mayor said the county’s plans to keep the property as open space robbed the village and other taxing districts, such as local school districts, of potentially millions in property tax revenue.
The Orland Grassland South project will be financed as part of the tollway authority’s reconstruction and widening of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (Interstate 90). The authority will gain wetland mitigation credits with the grassland restoration that will offset some of the lost wetlands associated with the $2.2 billion Addams Tollway project.
Once restoration of Orland Grassland South is done, it will link with the grassland preserve to the north, which serves as a breeding area for various grassland birds such as bobolinks, dickcissels, eastern meadowlarks and Henslow’s sparrows, according to the tollway authority.