By Kristin Boza
As the Dan Ryan Woods turns 100 this month, numerous family-friendly activities are set to honor the anniversary and showcase the forest preserve to those who may not have had the opportunity to visit before.
On Sun., Aug. 27, 2 to 7 p.m., a 100th anniversary event will be held at the Dan Ryan Woods Pavilion which includes guided hikes, archery and information about the preserve, including its namesake. Forest Jam begins at 5:30 p.m. and offers group jam sessions, education on making instruments from natural and recycled materials and a concert by local musicians. All events are free and open to the public.
Additionally, Archery 101 is offered on Thurs., Aug. 24, 3:30 to 6 p.m. Participants must be at least 10 years old and everyone will learn about the history of archery, bow parts and proper technique. This class is also free and all equipment is provided.
According to Stacina Stagner, communications manager for the forest preserve district, the Dan Ryan Woods was a working farm before the Forest Preserves of Cook County purchased its 112 acres and created the Beverly Hills Preserve. In 1924, it was renamed Dan Ryan Woods in honor of Dan Ryan, Sr., a president of the Cook County Board.
“Dan Ryan Woods is among the most popular sites in the Forest Preserves. It is often one of the top-visited picnic locations year after year,” Stagner said. “Within this 257-acre preserve, visitors can explore historic limestone aqueducts, hop on the beginning of the Major Taylor Trail for a bike ride, and walk the paved loop trail. It’s also home to one of the highest points in Chicago, where visitors can look out and see the beautiful landscape. During winter, Dan Ryan Woods is a popular sledding destination.”
The Forest Preserves of Cook County offers a variety of ways for residents to get involved in preservation and improvement of Dan Ryan Woods, including the Adopt-A-Site and Trail Watch programs. “Through Adopt-A-Site, people of all ages make a commitment to their favorite Forest Preserves location and clean up litter,” Stagner said. “The Trail Watch program means volunteers help make the Forest Preserves safer simply by doing what they’re already doing — visiting the Forest Preserves.” For more information on volunteer opportunities, visit FPDCC.com/Volunteer.
Keep an eye out for some updates to Dan Ryan Woods in the future; Stagner says that a new nature play area and installation of a kiosk featuring panels showcasing Dan Ryan’s new amenities and history are on the horizon.
Dan Ryan Woods Enhancements Include New Visitor Center, Loop Trail
Cook County Board and Forest Preserves of Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, joined by Sen. Bill Cunningham, Rep. Fran Hurley, and numerous Commissioners and officials from the Forest Preserves of Cook County, celebrated recent improvements made to Dan Ryan Woods as it becomes one of the Forest Preserves’ first signature “Gateway” locations under the Forest Preserves’ Gateway Master Plan.
“Dan Ryan Woods is among the most popular sites in the Forest Preserves, and is actually one of the few within Chicago proper. It is also often one of the top-visited picnic locations year after year, and it’s easy to see why,” said President Preckwinkle. “Without question, Dan Ryan Woods was selected as a Gateway site. For decades, families have come together here to enjoy a respite from the city, gathering for picnics, sporting events, or simply a walk”
The Gateway Master Plan explores gateways as a class of special sites with identifiable entry-ways at various locations throughout the preserves to encourage people to take advantage of the natural open space available in Cook County. According to the plan, Gateway sites will undergo enhancements to help convey a sense of welcome, interest, safety and beauty. Opportunities to create a “sense of place” include increasing natural area restoration, integrating art and sculptures, and developing a policy on interpretation that communicates natural and cultural assets within the Forest Preserves.
Recent investments at Dan Ryan Woods include the Visitors Center which features permit sales and a new outdoor classroom, as well as improvements to the Dan Ryan Woods Pavilion. Further enhancements coming to Dan Ryan Woods include special interpretive signs showcasing the amenities and history of the site, a nature play area with a treehouse and new sledding hill stairs.
“The Dan Ryan Woods are a wonderful place for families to experience the Forest Preserves without leaving the city of Chicago. The latest improvements will continue to enhance the experience of local residents and visitors,” said Commissioner John Daley, 11th District.
“One of the major goals of the Gateway master plan is to encourage the public to take advantage of the natural open space available in Cook County,” said Arnold Randall, General Superintendent of the Forest Preserves. “We feel this is especially important within the City of Chicago, where residents may not have as easy of access to nature. We also recognize that many visitors may need a guide when it comes to the nature.”
The new interpretive kiosk will stand 11 feet high and display six panels of information including key features to enjoy at Dan Ryan and how to access those locations. The history of Dan Ryan Woods will also be displayed, as well as information on the local habitat and how to get involved in volunteer efforts and participate in upcoming events. The tree house will be built with natural elements and introduce the nature play concept in the area.
On Sun., Aug.t 27, the Forest Preserves will be hosting the Dan Ryan Woods 100th Anniversary celebration, which will include guided hikes, archery, information about the preserve and Dan Ryan himself, as well as a free Forest Jams concert. The event is free to attend, and will be hosted from 2. to 7 p.m.
For more information on the Gateway Master Plan, visit fpdcc.com/gateway-masterplan. For more information on the Forest Preserves, visit fpdcc.com.