For current information
on Lyman Woods please visit the following sites:
Downers Grove Park
This site is the
place to go for the latest information
on upcoming events (this summer featuring everything from bees to
butterflies to worms) and volunteer opportunities.
Volunteer opportunities include hands-on
activities like tending the butterfly garden and removing non-native
and assisting with day camp activities.
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
...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
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.