The Cook County Forest Reserve District covers nearly 70,000 acres. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

From a sustained spike in visitors to an increased number of acres being restored and the creation of a climate resilience plan, Cook County forest reserves are on an “upward trajectory,” according to the council chairman County of Cook, Toni Preckwinkle, who this week announced the district’s budget for 2022 will remain largely stable from 2021.

Recommended allocation of $ 136.6 million for 2022 represents a 1.8% increase over last year and includes $ 65.2 million for daily operations and $ 23.4 million for the zoo of Brookfield and the Chicago Botanical Garden.

To deal with deferred maintenance and make up for lost revenue from the pandemic, the budget is taking $ 17.1 million from the district’s reserves, Preckwinkle said on Tuesday at a special meeting of the council of commissioners of the forest reserve.

While the recommended budget will keep the doors open and the lights on, it doesn’t make a dent in the district’s $ 64 million in unfunded maintenance, pension obligations or the goal of acquiring more land, according to Preckwinkle.

To meet these needs, the district is basing its hopes on the adoption of a land tax referendum to be held before voters in November 2022. The proposed tax increase is “a quarter of a tenth of 1%, ”said Preckwinkle, who repeated the amount for effect.

“I am convinced that this budget can serve as a bridge,” but if voters reject the tax and new financial resources do not materialize, tough choices will be made, she said.

The budget will be presented and open for comment in a virtual public hearing scheduled for October 21 at 6 p.m.

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 | [email protected]

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