Will County

An image of Will County (Tribune illustration / March 9, 2012)

If the forest preserve land abutting your yard has become home for your old boat, storage for firewood or the perfect spot for your compost pile, you might soon be getting a letter from the Will County Forest Preserve District.

The forest preserve district recently surveyed boundaries for 12 of its 82 preserves for the first time in about 13 years. The surveys showed neighbors are using public land to extend their yards.

Most of the cases involved minor violations such as storing firewood, composting, mowing district property or setting up gardens on district land. In the most egregious case, a homeowner built a wooden platform and posted a no trespassing sign on district land.

Homeowners will be notified by letter this week and given 45 days to remove items or to come in compliance with district code. The letter encourages homeowners to contact the forest preserve district for additional information.

"It's not punitive," said Will County Forest Preserve District Executive Director Marcy DeMauro. "We're just asking them to clean it up."

District officials found 214 violations, but 190 letters are going out. DeMauro said the remaining violations involve permanent structures, such as retaining walls, and district officials will work individually with those homeowners to address encroachment issues.

DeMauro said the district will survey the remaining preserves over the next two to three years to eliminate other encroachments on forest preserve land.

In other news from the Will County Forest Preserve District, commissioners on May 8 recognized the City of Lockport, the Lockport Park District, Legacy Paintball Park and Will County for helping to clean up a section of Canal Road along the I&M Canal in Lockport. The district leases the road from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The clean-up effort began after a resident complained to Will County officials about the debris on the road. DeMauro said the cleanup effort resulted in "hundreds of cubic yards" of debris being removed.

"The road was in terrible shape," she said.

She noted the road is adjacent to the Lockport Prairie, which is owned by the Will County Forest Preserve District, and to Dellwood Park.

Forest preserve commissioners also recognized Emily Kenny as the district's volunteer of the year. The Steger woman has been volunteering for the forest preserve district since 1999 and won her first "volunteer of the year" award in 2002. District officials said she was instrumental in various events and has helped coordinate volunteer efforts for the district.