New Park for Prospect Heights (IL)

Prospect Heights, IL, 11/14/03- Illinois State Representative Elaine Nekritz, State Senator Wendell Jones, the Trust for Public Land, and the Prospect Heights Park District announced the successful protection of over 8 acres of black walnut forest that was planted nearly 40 years ago by a local physician and avid arborist. The land will be owned and cared for by the Prospect Heights Park District as an area dedicated to educational opportunities and passive recreation. A significant portion of the acquisition funds were provided through the Illinois Open Land Trust program with additional funding coming from the Prospect Heights Park District. Both Senator Jones and Representative Nekritz were instrumental in securing funding through the Open Land Trust.

“It is vital that we seek out natural areas in our communities to protect for our children,” Noted State Sen. Wendell Jones. “Conservation needs support at all levels – local, state and federal. If we can’t help our communities protect what is important, we are failing the next generation.”

“This land will provide new opportunities not only for the people of Prospect Heights, but for all of its’ surrounding communities,” Said State Rep. Elaine Nekritz. “The educational and recreational opportunities here are endless. I am thrilled to be a part of such a great cause.”

In 1964, local physician and amateur arborist Dr. Keith Wurtz acquired the property along McDonald Creek in Prospect Heights; a small suburb located 20 miles north of Chicago. Dr. Wurtz dedicated a portion of this land to forestry and planted thousands of seedlings of walnut, white oak and other species. While the grove continued to mature over the past three decades, open space that was once abundant in the region, disappeared at an alarming rate. Today, the property has become a vestige of woodland.

The Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission has designated McDonald Creek, which runs through the property, as a greenway in 1997. The plan calls for the preservation and protection of greenways not only for recreation purposes but also because of threatened stream corridors due to increased urbanization. Dr. Wurtz’s trees are an important resource to the community, protecting the water quality of the Creek as it winds through Cook County and providing intangible health benefits as a natural area.

The property was acquired by the Trust for Public Land from Dr. Wurtz this summer and is now being conveyed to the Prospect Heights Park District. The land is heavily forested with black walnut, oak, white pine, and bald cypress trees planted Dr Wurtz. Now completely surrounded by development, the property is one of the last remaining open natural spaces in the area.

“Creating new parkland in heavily developed communities takes vision and imagination,” said Chris Slattery, Director of the Chicago Office of the Trust for Public Land. “The community of Prospect Heights is fortunate to have leaders willing to seek funding for such a treasure. And Dr. Wurtz’s passion for trees has become an incredible gift to this community.”

The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, community gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has worked with willing landowners, local communities, and national, state and local agencies to protect over 1.5 million acres stretching from America’s inner cities to its wilderness areas. In the four years since opening an office in Chicago, TPL has helped create and expand several key parks along the Chicago River and in neighborhoods under served by open space.