Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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The Need for Open Lands
Nature Bulletin No. 742   February 8, 1964
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Seymour .Simon, President
Roberts Mann, Conservation Editor

There is an old saying: The proof of the pudding is the eating . In other words, if it's good, people enjoy it and beg for more. The proof of the need for open lands -- publicly owned areas for recreational uses and open spaces undisturbed -- is the tremendous and ever-increasing use of those we have.

We need more now. Year after year we will need more and more. It is imperative that areas desirable for future use be acquired now or as soon as possible, regardless of cost and even though they may stand idle ' -- vacant and undeveloped -- until more funds become available. Otherwise they may be gone, or the asking price may be a hundred times greater. Open spaces such as farm lands and prairies may have been occupied by residential, commercial or industrial developments. Woodlands may have been cut, stream channels dredged and wetlands drained, destroying all but a memory of their beauty and recreational values. There are compelling reasons for our need of open lands and why we should waste no time in providing more. Those reasons have been confirmed and emphasized by exhaustive studies and statistical analyses nationwide in scope.

The population of these United States is increasing rapidly. Most of the increase is taking place in metropolitan areas, Adequate open lands properly located are essential for the well-being of the people in those areas. We are becoming more mobile: facilitated in going places by means of more and better automobiles, expressways, interstate highways, and aircraft. People have more and more leisure time. They have more money to spend. Most compelling, because -) of those changes, is the fact that people are becoming more outdoor-minded.

The complexion of America is changing before our eyes. By the year 2000, only 36 years from now -- and how old will you be then? -- it is predicted that the population of the United States will be twice what it was in 1960. Three-fourths of that population will be clustered in metropolitan regions around about 200 central cities. The demand for recreational areas and facilities will have tripled.

Those people will need, convenient to them, woodlands, waters, and open spaces where there is elbow room, freedom from man-made and manhandled environment, and a feeling of closeness to the soil. Inevitably, any metropolitan area becomes crowded, noisy, bustling and artificial. Its citizens live at a fast tempo and under high nervous tensions.

City and village parks to some extent, but especially county or metropolitan parks and forest preserves, provide the antidote for that. They furnish places, close by, for simple forms of recreation -- picnicking, nature walks, fishing, hiking, skating, bicycling, etc. They provide the restful inspiration that nature gives to most of us, and the mental tonic of peaceful hours.

Sixty years ago, in Chicago, when the proposal to establish a system of outer parks, or of forest preserves, was being debated, Daniel Burnham said: "Natural scenery furnishes the contrasting element to the artificiality of the city. All of us should often run away from the works of men's hands and back into the wilds, where mind and body are restored to a normal condition, and we are enabled to take up the burden of life in our crowded streets and endless stretches of buildings with renewed vigor and hopefulness.

State parks, within a day's drive or less, are equally important. Among the 46 states that have them, Illinois is at the bottom of the list. We should do something about that.

"Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, until there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth." (Isaiah V-8)

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