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Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan and Executive Summary

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  1. 1. oak forestheritage preservemaster plan & visionexecutive summaryJuly 2012 Prepared for: Forest Preserve District of Cook County Cook County Real Estate Management Division Prepared by: Conservation Design Forum with: Bluestone + Associates Environmental Design International Midwest Archaeological Research Services, Inc. Primera Engineers
  2. 2. Residents enjoy watermelon outside the Oak Forest Hospital. Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan
  3. 3. executive summaryProject Summary & Purpose Planning ProcessThe Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan is a The master planning process began in the fall of 2011,comprehensive vision for the future development, when a team of consultants led by Conservation Designpublic use, and long-term management of the Oak Forum, Inc. (CDF) was retained to assist the FPDCCForest Heritage Preserve. The plan is intended to help and Cook County in the analysis and planning of theguide circulation and access improvements, ecological Oak Forest Heritage Preserve. Acquired in 2010 by theand site restoration, memorialization of sacred space, FPDCC, the property warranted detailed investigationimplementation of recreational amenities, and the and documentation of the site’s ecological and culturalpreservation and interpretation of the rich natural and features, as well as the rich history of human activitycultural history of the Preserve and adjacent properties. and interaction over many millennia. These discoveriesThe plan addresses four parcels: the Forest Preserve helped guide the development of the Master Plan. TheDistrict of Cook County (FPDCC) Parcel, and three team CDF assembled included experts in all aspectsothers immediately adjacent to the Preserve—the of naturally and culturally sustainable planningCorner Parcel, the Oak Forest Health Center (OFHC), practice: Conservation Design Forum, Inc. (Projectand the Cicero Parcel, all owned by Cook County. Lead, Landscape Architecture, Planning), Bluestone + Associates (Interpretive Planning), EnvironmentalAll uses and development proposed for the Oak Forest Design International (Environmental Assessment),Heritage Preserve in this Master Plan are consistent Midwest Archaeological Research Services, Inc.with the mission of the Forest Preserve District of Cook (Cultural Resources), and Primera EngineersCounty…to restore, restock, protect and preserve the (Engineering).natural forests and such lands together with their flora Cook County Corner Parceland fauna, as nearly as may be, in their natural state and 46.9 acrescondition, for the purpose of the education, pleasure, andrecreation of the public… Oak Forest Forest Preserve District Health Center of Cook County Parcel 81.7 acres 176.3 acresFuture uses will also recognize ecosystem health,preservation of historic resources, protection andinterpretation, and the partnership with the Oak ForestHealth Center. Cook County Cicero Parcel 23.9 acres project parcel map Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan 1
  4. 4. executive summary Burr Oak Elizabeth A. Woods Conkey Forest Turtlehead Rubio Woods Lake Forest Preserve Bachelor Grove Woods 143rd St to downtown Midlothian Chicago 43 294 Sundrop Prairie Nature Preserve Kerkstra Middle Jack Hille Middle d Central Park an Isl Oak Forest High Elementary ck Breman Paintbrush Prairie Ro Foster Elementary ra Community Nature Preserve et St. Damien M Elementary 83 High Gensburg-Markham Scarlet Oak Elementary Oak Forest Midlothian Prairie Preserve Meadows Oak Forest McClaughery Metra W. 159th St School 6 Markham Nelson Woods St. Gerard Majella Fieldcrest St. Mihiel Elementary Markham Park Elementary Tinley Reservation Park DePaul University Morton Gingerwood Elementary 57 Arbor Park Middle 50 175th St Yankee Woods Country Club Hills 80 Legend Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Forest Preserve District of Cook County properties The Nature Conservancy prairies school university Metra station park trails South Green trail connection Belt Forest Cook County Will County county line 0’ 1,000’ 2,000’ 4,000’ 6,000’ northregional context map2 Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan
  5. 5. executive summaryPogie Lake ancientProject Goals past The geologic formation of the site and region;The Master Plan goals are to: • Restore the ecological landscape, improve surface Thousands of years of nomadic water management, and provide new recreation hunting and foraging; improvements consistent with the FPDCC’s More recent Native American mission; settlement and seasonal agriculture; • Showcase the rich cultural history of the site; Modern industrialized agriculture • Identify opportunities for continued connections and the development of mechanized between the Oak Forest Health Center and farming practices that largely relied on the Forest Preserve District properties, while monocultures (growing just one type addressing the security needs of both; and of crop); • Explore connections to the larger community. The development of the Oak Forest Poor Farm and Infirmary;Telling the Story The interment of tens of thousands ofThe Oak Forest Heritage Preserve is a site with a complex indigents from the Poor Farm and theand interconnected set of stories of human history, County;archaeology, geology, ecology and natural history The development and progression ofthat span millennia. The property has seen changes in the Oak Forest Health Center; andoccupancy and use that have affected the health of those sustainable The next chapter of use as the Masterliving on it and upon the land itself. The following is a futuregeneralized chronology of the evolution of use: Plan vision is realized. Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan 3
  6. 6. executive summarySite Analysis - Key Findings Historic VegetationCultural & Geological Context Vegetation reported in the area of the Oak ForestNative American Settlement Heritage Preserve included oak savanna, oak-hickoryAfter the last retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier forest, mesic and wet prairie, sedge meadow and pondapproximately 14,000 years ago, the land area that systems. With the exception of wood harvesting, seeding,includes the Oak Forest Heritage Preserve has been a and mowing, it is possible that some areas of the parcelplace of significance. This is due largely to its location have been relatively undisturbed since the early surveyorat the transition between a morainal ridge left behind reports, and the oak savanna in the northwest cornerby the retreating glacier and the flat, open land of the of the Oak Forest site may be a remnant of the originalChicago Lake Plain, approximately 25-30 feet below. woodland described by land surveys in 1822.The elevation of the moraine above the plains offeredNative American inhabitants refuge from the heatand humidity of low-lying swamps, views of sweepingprairie fires and the oncoming enemy, and readyaccess to nearby woodlands for harvesting materialsfor housing and sustenance. In this position, therecessional edge also provided the best trail location fortravel and trading. The value of this location to NativeAmerican culture was confirmed in 1958, when anarcheological investigation uncovered eight houses andmapped an entire Native American village—the firstin northeastern Illinois. The site appears to have been oak savanna at the Corner Parceloccupied approximately around 1680. Legend property boundaries 0’ 200’ 400’ 800’ 1200’ north1929 USGS topography4 Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan
  7. 7. executive summary 89 d oa ilr 90ra Map of the Buildings and 80 W. 159th Street Grounds of the Cook Pulaski Road 87 67 77 County Infirmary, 88 70 Tuberculosis Hospital 68 and Farm 84 64 65 66 Oak Forest Illinois 85 63 69 62 93 1916 71 72 94 61 82 60 59 83 79 57 58 56 55 74 73 11 6 7 10 54 5 8 15 9 14 16 92 3 1 2 24 4 12 18 20 23 Legend 81 91 13 17 19 26 buildings 21 22 33 28 27 lake 32 29 78 S. Cicero Avenue 34 25 stream 30 property boundaries 35 31 0’ 100’ 200’ 400’ 600’ 37 north 38 36 40 1. Administration Bldg. 15. Wards “F” 1,2,3&4 27. Smoke Stack 41. 55. 69. Antiseptic Tanks 83. Utilety House [sic] 75 2. Receiving Bldg. 16. Wards “G” 1,2,3&4 28. Laundry 42. 56. Poultry Houses 70. Lodgehouse & Gate 84. Cow Barns 39 3. Genl. Hospital 17. Genl. Kitchen 29. Storeroom 43. 57. & Yards 71. Cement & Floral Piece 85. Fruit Orchard 49 41 44 4. Morgue 18. Bakery 30. Wards “K” 1,2,3&4 44. 58. Frame Farm Cottage 72. Tennis Court 86. Parking Station 47 5. T.B. Nurses Home 19. Gen. Bath & 31. Greenhouse 45. T.B. Cottage 59. Brick Farm Cottage 73. Baseball Grounds 87. General Store 50 42 45 6. Genl. Supt Cottage Toilet Room 32. Catholic Chapel 46. Colony 60. Stables 74. Lawn Tool Houses 88. General Store 48 7. Infirmary Nurses Home 20. Workshop Bldg. 33. Wards “A” 1,2,3&4 47. 61. 75. Pumping Station 89. Railroad Station 43 Frame Storehouses 46 8. Asst. Supt. Cottage and Mechan 34. Wards “B” 1,2,3&4 48. 62. 76. Catholic Cemetery 90. Eastern Casket Co. 9. Wards “C” 1,2,3&4 21. Water Tower 35. Aged Couples Home 49. 63. 77. County Cemetery 91. Lake 51 Hog Houses 53 10. Wards “D” 1,2,3&4 22. Power House 36. T.B. Tent Colony 50. 64. 78. County Cemetery 92. Rabits Island [sic] 52 37. T.B. Office Bldg. 65. and Yards 11. Wards “L” 1,2,3&4 23. Paint Shop 51. School House 79. Farm House 93. Canning Plant 12. Protestant Chapel 24. Rag House 38. T.B. Hospital Bldg. 52. Duty Tent 66. Tool House 80. Franciscan Fath. Residence 94. Grape Arbor 13. Genl. Dining Room 25. Crematory 39. New T.B. Hospital 53. Duty Tent 67. Hog Hospital 81. Cistern 76 14. Wards “E” 1,2,3&4 26. Oil House 40. T.B. Dining Hall 54. Poultry Houses & Yards 68. Hog Colony 82. Smoke Housebuilding and grounds map from 1916A History of Healing Site ConditionsIn 1910, what was to later become Oak Forest Hospital Ecological Inventoryand today’s Oak Forest Health Center, opened its doors The current ecological conditions at the Preserve includeas the Cook County Work Farm/Oak Forest Infirmary, a six general plant communities:poor farm and home for the county’s indigent population. Mowed lawn: areas of turf grasses that are maintainedThe location of this institution, 22 miles from Chicago, by regular mowing.served as a major stimulus for the 20th century growthof the Oak Forest community. In addition to the Poor Oak savanna with lawn: rolling, timbered landscapeFarm, the Oak Forest Infirmary property also served as that include mature oaks.a tuberculosis treatment center and burial site for the Bur oak hillside: a small, east-facing slope in the Cicerocounty’s indigent and many of those who died at Oak Parcel that has Bur Oak as the dominate canopy tree, andForest Hospital. Written records of these burials have weedy shrubs in the sub-canopy.been preserved by Cook County, beginning March 4, Old field: open fields dominated by a mixture of Eurasian1911, and continuing through November 17, 1971. grasses and forbs, plus various native species. Overgrown thicket: disturbed areas comprised primarily of unassociated woody growth. Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan 5
  8. 8. executive summaryWetlands: seven delineated wetland areas, most ofmarginal to poor quality. Wetland Five contains openwater (Pogie Lake) and its associated drainage channels.As part of a largely urbanized watershed, the water levelsin Pogie Lake fluctuate with rainfall runoff, and the siteexperiences flooding. The hydrology of the Pogie Lakeaquatic complex is still remarkably stable given thelargely urbanized condition of the upstream watershedarea and drainage channels directing stormwater intothe system.Cultural & Archaeological FindingsDuring the 2011 Phase 1 Cultural Assessment, areconnaissance survey conducted on the FPDCC andCorner Parcels as part of the background investigation tool making debris found at the Oak Forest Heritage Preservefor this Master Plan, Midwest Archaeological ResearchServices, Inc. employed shovel probes as a means ofsurveying the land. A total of 411 prehistoric artifactsand 40 historic artifacts were recovered during thesurvey. All of the prehistoric artifacts are stone, eithertools or the by-products of stone tool manufacture and/or re-sharpening. Nine new sites recorded with theIllinois State Museum and the increased boundaries fortwo of the previously recorded sites. These findings, inconjunction with the findings from the 1958 and 1979excavations help to establish this site and a unique andvaluable archaeological site. bur oak hillsideThe VisionThe Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan isintended to guide the evolution of the property froman inaccessible, environmentally disturbed site with ahidden past, into a preserve that is beautiful, culturallyand biologically rich, accessible, and educational. Theplan includes ecological, cultural, recreational, andinterpretive elements that uncover the site’s rich history,and help to define a new future—one in which theOak Forest Heritage Preserve is a valued, well-utilizedamenity embraced by the community of Oak Forest,Cook County, and the region. old field6 Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan
  9. 9. 7executive summary alternate pedestrian crossing farmsted pedestrian and wildlife crossing Pulaski Road W. 159th Street 2. health center complex 1. oak savanna 4. poor farm 5. historic 3. visitor cemetery center museum / 8. oak visitor center forest site and restroom 7. ongoing upgraded parking archeology sidewalk (40 cars) Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan temporary 6. wetlands relocate, stabilize, and restroom combine channel Oak Forest temporary Health Center 11. restoration: parking water/hydrology (12 cars) S. Cicero Avenue existing dock existing gazebo 10. restoration: 9. geology vegetation & & soils parking biodiversity (24 cars) 57 e new signal at ut intersection Ro proposed property Fieldcrest Park easement parking lot Legend native prairie primary path (12’ gravel) native woodland secondary path (8’ gravel) native oak savanna tertiary path (3’ mowed or gravel) low profile prairie boardwalk rainwater enhancement area fence wetland path intersection treatment pond resting spot/overlook major green screening interpretation minor green screening wayfinding existing road “You Are Here” signs new road master site plan
  10. 10. executive summaryInfrastructure ImprovementsVehicular Access A number of secondary and tertiary paths offer a moreVehicles will access the Oak Forest Heritage Preserve intimate, slower-paced pedestrian experience andthrough the existing entrance drive off of 159th Street provide access to the delineated character zones, cultural(currently used for the Oak Forest Health Center) with amenities, and interpretation.separated, secure entrances for the OFHC and FPDCCactivities. Adjacent Connections The primary path connects the two adjacent ForestTrails Preserves, Midlothian Meadows and St. MihielA system of trails will loop through the FPDCC parcel Reservation, in an effort to join these fragmented openand around the OFHC campus. The loop path around spaces. A pedestrian and wildlife crossing over 159ththe OFHC will connect to the Cicero Avenue sidewalk, Street could potentially be built on the northeast side ofwhich will be widened to allow bicycles and pedestrians the FPDCC Parcel to allow for a safe, grade-separatedto safely pass. The trail loop around the FPDCC parcel crossing over 159th Street for people, bicycles, andwill follow the rolling topography of the site, passing (potentially) the many wildlife species that live here.through each type of plant community. A connection Additionally, a new traffic signal is suggested for thebetween this path and the Fieldcrest neighborhood 163rd Street and Cicero Avenue intersection to provideis proposed through two southward spurs: one to a connection from the Preserve site to the St. Mihielthe parking lot at Fieldcrest Park, and the second at Reservation and the Twin Lakes.Fieldcrest Elementary School.typical primary path section8 Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan
  11. 11. executive summaryThe Corner Parcel could be restored to an oak savanna, an ecosystem that dominated this area before European settlement.Structures In addition to the restoration areas, this plan envisionsThe proposed Visitor Center would ideally re-use an the creation of bioinfiltration and other water absorptiveexisting building to house an interpretive museum. A landscapes elements to help recreate natural hydrologyseparate restroom could also be installed near the main for stormwater treatment. Vegetative screens alongentrance of the Preserve, as seen on the Master Plan. the edges of the site help ensure separation between conflicting uses and serve as noise and visual buffersLandscape Restoration between the Preserve and adjacent properties.In order to achieve a natural landscape that is inharmony with the site, virtually the entire property will Cultural Landscapesneed to be re-established with native plant ecosystems While the vast majority of the site is proposed to beappropriate for the climate, geology, hydrology, and preserved and restored as natural/native landscape,other conditions of the overall habitat. The Oak Forest some “feature areas” are planned as cultural landscapes,Heritage Preserve Master Plan has identified five general using adapted, compatible plant species.plant community types that would be appropriate toestablish or reestablish on site, based on initial field Farmstead: The historic Poor Farm will be “restored”observations of existing conditions, historic cultural to create the feeling and aesthetic of the working farmuse, and intended use of the land. The communities are of the site’s past. The landscape could consist of prairienative prairie, native woodland, native oak savanna, grasses and perennials, an ornamental orchard, andrainwater enhancement areas, and wetland. vegetable and herb plots that could become an active farming or community gardening practice associated Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan 9
  12. 12. executive summaryA community garden in the Corner Parcel farmstead utilizes the remaining cement infrastructure from historic livestock pens.with the OFHC’s horticultural therapy program or a Pogie Lake: Restoring the shoreline of Pogie Lake willlocal gardening organization. help to highlight the wildlife that is already present, draw more species to the site, and ensure the long term healthHistoric Cemetery: Although the physical of this ecologically and culturally significant feature.boundaries and extent of burials within the historiccemetery on site are unclear, the Master Plan sets aside Interpretive Plana cemetery space in the general location of the historic An essential aspect of this Master Plan is the integrationburials as a place for reflection and memorial within of access, controlled views, artwork, landscape, andthe Preserve. The landscape treatment in the cemetery educational and interactive features into the landscape.will be characterized by a grid of mass plantings of low The addition of informational signage, interpretiveprofile prairie grass species. elements, and wayfinding helps to provide an interesting and rewarding experience for visitors.Oak Forest Site: The Native American Oak Forestsite, perhaps the most culturally significant place on In total there are eleven distinct locations or stops atthe property, should stand apart as a unique part of the which the history and natural history of the site couldPreserve. The 17th century Native American dwellings be interpreted to the visiting public. These stops arethat were uncovered during archaeological excavations located throughout the combined properties on site andin 1958 and 1979 could be marked on the ground using could consist of a combination of interpretive signage,stones or temporarily recreated 3-dimensionally using wayfinding, sculpture, and other storytelling tools. Stopinvasive trees removed from the site during restoration. would include information on the oak savanna, health10 Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan
  13. 13. executive summaryA grid of gravel paths planted with low-profile prairie grasses reflect the layout of unmarked burial plots beneath.A full-scale, three-dimensional mammoth sculpture at Hidden Oaks Nature Center is a unique interpretive piece. Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan 11
  14. 14. executive summarycenter complex, Poor Farm, historic cemetery, wetlands, The cost of the initial phases of the improvements isarchaeological history, Native American settlement, estimated at $2.5 to 3.9 million and would be fundedgeology and soils, and ecological restoration. from existing FPDCC Capital Funds.Project Phasing All further site work and improvements would dependThe Master Plan for the Oak Forest Heritage Preserve on securing funding and potential partners; these “futurepresents a comprehensive, ecologically, and culturally phases” would include the creation of feature areas likesustainable transformation for the site that will occur the cemetery and farmstead, the visitor’s center, finalover many years. The first phases focus on making the interpretive stations, permanent parking areas, entrancePreserve accessible to public, creating safe vehicular and drive and traffic circle, traffic signal at Cicero and 163rdpedestrian access to the Preserve, and the restoration Street, and an above-grade pedestrian crossing overand enhancement of the hydrology and landscape: 159th Street. It is recommended to form a partnership committee to jointly pursue funding for future phases,Phase 1a would include trail extensions to the Field- and begin identifying potential funding sources for thecrest subdivision, a temporary parking area near the future phases immediately.existing gazebo or a small new lot off the OFHC drive,wayfinding, and “under construction” signage. Public Funding Strategiesaccess could be allowed as early as Fall of 2012. There are a number of local, state, and federal agenciesEstimated costs: $42,000 – $80,000 that promote and support many of the strategies and tactics outlined in the Oak Forest Heritage PreservePhase 1b would begin in Spring 2013 with the first Master Plan. These agencies offer grants, tax incentives,phase of site improvements, including the initial land- and other forms of financial incentives for projects suchscape restoration, planting in the cemetery, vegetative as this to lead the way in implementing and applyingscreening, hydrological improvements, pedestrian sustainable practices. Current programs and fundingpaths, and wayfinding and interpretive stops. sources that may be applicable to the Oak ForestEstimated costs: $1.8 - $2.7 million Heritage Preserve include the USEPA Section 319 Program, Illinois Green Infrastructure Grant ProgramPhase 1c initiates the improvements on Cook County for Stormwater Management, Open Space Landproperties: upgrading the Cicero Avenue sidewalk, Acquisition Development Program, and the Land andrestoration in the Corner Parcel, stormwater treatment Water Conservation Fund.area establishment, additional signage, and severalinterpretive stops. The Master Plan includes a variety of different programming opportunities that, in addition toEstimated costs: $580,000 - $1 million ecological conservation and restoration, include health and wellness, outdoor recreation, cultural heritage,Phase 1d begins initial improvements to the Oak For- political history, and education. Private foundations andest Health Center Campus, such as a path around the corporate sponsors that focus on these issues could behealth center, landscape restoration, stormwater treat- approached for financial support.ment area establishment, and additional temporarywayfinding signage.Estimated costs: $86,900 – 138,00012 Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan
  15. 15. 13executive summary farmsted Pulaski Road W. 159th Street cemetery Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan upgraded sidewalk temporary restroom temporary parking Oak Forest (12 cars) Heath Center existing dock S. Cicero Avenue existing gazebo parking (24 cars) proposed property Fieldcrest Park Legend easement parking lot native prairie major green screening native woodland minor green screening 57 7 native oak savanna existing road e ut u Ro R cemetery planting primary path (12’ gravel) stormwater treatment area secondary path (8’ gravel) wetland boardwalk pond entrance signage phases 1a - 1d
  16. 16. oak forest executive summaryheritage preserve July 2012master plan & visionForest Preserve District of Cook CountyCook County Real Estate Management Division