Opened in the Summer of 2003,
the William F. Sherman, Jr.
Interpretive Center at
Lyman Woods Forest Preserve in Downers Grove serves as the gateway to the woods. The facility features exhibits and multifunction rooms for school groups and educational programs.


Educational materials are available for visitors.


Alice Eastman,  Manager of Natural Resources and Interpretive Services updates an info kiosk at the trail head.

Click here for a map to the Lyman Woods interpretive Center

Activists
Activists urging "Vote Yes!"
  in a March 1996 Park District
 referendum authorizing
$ 3 million in new bonds
to purchase the Oak forested land at 31st Street & Highland Avenue for open space and as an addition to the Lyman Woods Preserve.

For current information on Lyman Woods please visit the following sites:

Downers Grove Park District site: (for latest interpretive center hours) http://www.dgparks.org/places-to-go/nature-center

This site is the place to go for the latest information on upcoming events (this summer featuring everything from bees to beavers to butterflies to worms) and volunteer opportunities.  Volunteer opportunities include hands-on activities like tending the butterfly garden and removing non-native vegetation and assisting with day camp activities.


A Brief History of the Lyman Woods Preserve & PDHA

In 1986, when George Williams College closed their Downers Grove Campus, many people were concerned about the future of Lyman Woods, entrusted to the College by Jessie Woodford Lyman. Early efforts to urge public purchase of the original Lyman Woods Forest Preserve were led by Friends of Lyman Woods, coordinated by Peter Baldo and John Banaszak, long-time residents of the area and enthusiastic advocates of the unique qualities of this site.

Village officials polled the community in August 1986 about participation in the proposed purchase and received a favorable response: 62% believed the Village should participate and 53% supported a leadership role in the public acquisition by the Village. Nevertheless, despite strong support for the project by Mayor Betty Cheever, a motion to proceed with the acquisition at first died for lack of a second and later was defeated by a vote of 2 to 3. Following many appeals by the residents, this defeated motion was reconsidered and finally approved by a vote of 3 to 2.

...the oak savanna forest...probably the choicest feature of the Lyman Woods Preserve...

The original cliff-hanger decision by the Village to work with the Forest Preserve District and Park District in jointly purchasing the Lyman Woods site has been followed by other trials, in which it is the people who clearly value and understand the significance of this great natural area in the midst of urbanization. During 1987 and 1988 there was a great controversy about siting a multi-story parking structure for Good Samaritan Hospital. This site is just south of the oak savanna forest of Lyman Woods, probably the choicest feature of the Lyman Woods Preserve.

In the summer of 1995, many people started working seriously to preserve land on the north side of the Preserve at the southeast corner of 31st Street and Highland Avenue. Town & Country Homes had bought this land intending to develop it for townhomes and an office complex.

The Downers Grove Plan Commission had delayed updating the Future Land Use Map for the properties north and south of 31st Street and east of Highland Avenue. When the question of the land use at the southeast corner was referred back to the Plan Commission in April 1995, founding members of Pierce Downer's Heritage Alliance decided it was important to offer expert testimony about the significance of this site for the Lyman Woods ecosystem.

Pierce Downer's Heritage Alliance was formed in August 1995 to raise money for a professional ecologist, Steven I. Apfelbaum, to prepare and present testimony to the Downers Grove Plan Commission. In support of our request for an Open Space designation of the land at the southeast corner of 31st & Highland, we submitted petitions from over 1500 members of our community. But this site was designated for residential use.

Early and continuing support by DuPage Audubon, The Conservation Foundation of DuPage County and other groups has been very important to our efforts. Using legal assistance arranged by The Foundation, we reached an understanding with the Downers Grove Park Commissioners about circulating a petition for a Park District referendum to authorize $ 3 million in new bonds to help purchase this important site. In December 1995, more than 45 petition circulators collected signatures from over 3200 registered voters, substantially more than 10% of the 25,372 electors in the Park District.

Once we got the referendum question on the ballot, we needed to get out the YES vote on March 19th. Hundreds of volunteers worked in the referendum campaign, coordinated by the Heritage Alliance Referendum Committee with co-chairs Richard O'Hara and Mary McNamara. Ultimately, the referendum passed by just 12 votes out of over 14,000 votes cast. Every vote surely counted in that election.

Even before the referendum vote, the Plan Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals conducted public hearings on Town & Country Homes' development plans. The Pierce Downer's Heritage Alliance mobilized people to attend and give testimony against destroying the forest. By this time the woodland had become known as Downers’ Last Grove.

When both advisory bodies unanimously recommended the development proposals, we carried our campaign to the Village Council to try to convince them of the great loss to the community if the woodland were decimated. Public testimony and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources consultation process continued from mid April to early June 1996, providing important time to raise funds for the purchase.

After the referendum for $ 3 million succeeded, we needed to find additional funding, primarily from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. The Park District asked The Conservation Foundation to play the lead role in negotiations with Town & Country Homes and to assist in the quest for additional funding. We had a nucleus of key Forest Preserve Commissioners who supported the acquisition, but it takes at least 13 votes on the 25 member Commission to approve such a purchase. Since the Commissioners come from 6 districts throughout DuPage County, we needed to generate support with many phone calls. It was crucial that the phone calls be positive and that the callers be able to interpret and report the type of responses they were getting.

After our initial success in May in securing $ 3 million of matching Forest Preserve funding, efforts to negotiate the purchase of the property broke down in midsummer. Therefore, we had to win two more votes by the Forest Preserve Commissioners: the first in August and then the second in December for an additional $1.3 million in funds. Commissioner W. H. Brown, who played a leading role in organizing the additional $1.3 million support, believes positive and persuasive phone calls from people throughout the County convinced Commissioners that this acquisition was a vitally important project.

Ultimately on about December 11, 1996, Town & Country Homes agreed to sell their 28.8 acre townhouse site for $ 7.25 million, provided that the closing would take place on or before December 31st. The Forest Preserve and Park District officials overcame many practical problems to sell $ 3 million in new bonds and close a major land purchase in less than 3 weeks time. Close cooperation between Downers Grove National Bank and the Park District was very helpful in this effort.

With assistance from the law firm of McDermott, Will & Emery, Pierce Downer's Heritage Alliance filed its articles of incorporation with the State of Illinois in November 1996 and held its first annual meeting  December 1996.