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The urgency to protect open space in Kendall County has never been greater. This project responds to that call with a collaborative and comprehensive open space vision of Kendall County. Local governments and organizations participated in and supported this initiative.

After consulting with Kendall County and various municipalities, The Conservation Foundation initiated this project to increase awareness of the urgency to protect land as well as to provide more education on land preservation options. Protect Kendall Now! includes three initial phases:

  1. Develop a unified Kendall County Open Space and Natural Areas Plan. (Completed Spring 2006)
  2. Conduct a multi-faceted public awareness campaign to increase awareness of the need and urgency to protect open space. (Completed Fall 2005)
  3. Engage interested landowners/developers in exploring permanent land preservation options. (on-going, beginning July 2006)

The Open Space and Natural Areas Map is not a zoning map. It acts in the same fashion as a comprehensive plan. The Plan utilizes existing plans by identifying opportunities to connect open space among the various communities, to maximize environmental and recreational benefits. This approach is recommended in numerous community comprehensive plans.

Protect Kendall Now Is...

  • Vision built by consensus for future open space in Kendall County.
  • Collaborative public-private partnership.
  • Coordinated by The Conservation Foundation.
  • Voluntary participation by landowners and developers.
  • Like a comprehensive plan.
  • Identifying lands with natural features to be preserved.
  • 30% funded by public agencies, through fee for service agreements.
  • Local planning effort, driven by local citizens and elected officials.
  • Not a zoning map.
  • Not dictating future land use.
  • Not an attempt to stop development.
  • Not a private endeavor.
  • Not required for landowners.
  • Does not diminish land values.
  • Not driven by extreme interests.

This plan transcends the density debate, individual open space percentage requirements of each community in Kendall County, and citing locations for park or forest preserve lands. It does not mandate a uniform approach throughout the county, however it does establish a county-wide vision for a coordinated open space network seeking to preserve high quality natural lands, environmentally sensitive areas, and connections among open space lands. In addition, it forms the basis to work with individual landowners and developers to preserve lands in Kendall County. This plan sets a long range vision for a county-wide open space system. It can be a policy document to guide decisions and a resource to realize that vision.

How Much?

At the writing of this plan, approximately 4,082 acres of land are permanently protected as public open space in Kendall County. There are a number of acres preserved privately; not all have been documented by the project partners and therefore this Plan does not identify the number of privately preserved acres in Kendall County. It does identify those for which data was readily available. The prevailing question in open space planning is: "How much should we preserve?" There are varying opinions on the appropriate quantity as well as whether it should be measured by amount, population, or distribution. Many local agencies have set a standard of 20-30 percent open space in all new residential subdivisions. The amount of open space desired could also be expressed in terms of population; many area park districts require 7.5-10 acres per 1,000 people to be donated as park land and the Forest Preserve District requires 10 acres per 1,000 people. A distribution approach would be to set a goal to have a park/forest preserve located every six blocks, for example.

The Steering Committee felt it more appropriate to discuss what should be preserved and what should be connected in the County. The yardstick for this Plan is to preserve what is already identified in existing plans and natural areas in the County. The areas specifically considered by the Steering Committee as ones to be protected included:

  • Rivers
  • Streams
  • Wetlands
  • Endangered species
  • Forested areas
  • Remnant prairies
  • Scenic vistas
  • Trails
  • Unique natural areas
  • Lands that protect water quality
  • Recreation areas

How the Map was Created

The Kendall County Open Space and Natural Areas map combines existing information to provide a county-wide view of its open space opportunities. It then builds upon that by identifying opportunities to enhance the open space network through preservation of natural areas not identified on existing plans as well as by connecting open space. It is not a zoning map. The purpose is to identify special places and set a vision that will enable them to be treasured forever.

The draft map was created by a Steering Committee comprised of many local representatives from Kendall County, the Kendall County Forest Preserve District, many municipalities in the county, park districts, non-for-profit land conservation organizations, watershed organizations, the Kendall County Soil & Water Conservation District, the Kendall County Farm Bureau, and several residents. The steps to create the plan included the following:

  1. Compile all existing planning data.
    • Kendall County Land Resource Management Plan
    • Kendall County Trails & Greenways Plan
    • municipal comprehensive plans
    • municipal open space plans
    • forest preserve district data
    • park district data
  1. Convert planning data into GIS.
    Data was in various formats including AutoCAD, MicroStation, and ArcView. All data was converted into a Geographic Information System (GIS). GIS is a computerized system for entering, storing, analyzing, and displaying spatial or mapped data. GIS is widely used as a planning tool; agencies in Kendall County either have or are planning to use GIS. By converting the data into this system, more analysis potential is available with the data collected.
  1. Add existing natural areas data.
    • 100-year flood zone (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
    • USGS National Hydrography Dataset (for surface water features)
    • Land cover (USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Illinois Department of Agriculture)
    • Corporation for Open Lands 2004 research on prairie remnants, fens, and wetland remnants
    • Nature Preserves (Illinois Department of Natural Resources)
    • Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (Illinois Department of Natural Resources)
    • Endangered and threatened species (Illinois Department of Natural Resources)
    • Properties with significant natural resources as documented by the Kendall Natural Area Guardians (KNAGs) in 1996
    • Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) Sections (from the Farm Service Agency)
    • Approximate point locations of sites listed on the National Historic Register
    • Approximate point locations of cemetery and/or burial grounds in Kendall County (Illinois State Genealogical Society)
  1. Reclassify data into appropriate open space categories.
    Most planning entities use open space designations specific to their plan. This Plan consolidated the various categories into three main groups: (Note: No data provided by project partners was modified or manipulated. It was simply reclassified into categories used on this Plan.)
    • "Existing Open Space – Preserved & Public" are lands owned by the State, Kendall County Forest Preserve District, or municipalities/park districts. Approximately 4,082 acres are within this category.
    • "Existing Open Space – Preserved & Private" includes lands with conservation easements or nature preserves. These are permanently protected, yet remain in private ownership. Not all of these lands are shown on the map due to their small size or incomplete information.
    • "Open Space Opportunity" is the classification used for lands identified in existing county/municipal/recreational plans for open space. Much of that incorporates floodplain areas, but not in all cases. Approximately 32,916 acres are within this classification.
  1. Identify "Additional Open Space Opportunities."
    This category identifies opportunities to link open space from the various plans and to preserve significant natural resources not identified in other plans. The Steering Committee identified these opportunities by reviewing the data described above. These areas go beyond that which has already been identified by the County or municipalities. Approximately 5,685 acres are within this category.

Aspects that could not be considered at this time, due to lack of available digitized data, include: steep slopes, hydric soils, and recharge areas. When this information is digitally available, those areas can be included in future updates to this Plan.

Now that you have read the purpose of the plan and how the Steering Committee created it, click here (1.3 MB PDF) to view a copy of the Natural Treasures of Kendall County: Open Space and Natural Areas Plan. This Plan is the FINAL version, revised after the Public Information Meetings in January 2006.

Plan Implementation

The goals of this Plan are to preserve the county's character, conserve lands with natural and recreational values, protect the quality of riparian areas, and keep the county's high quality natural areas. Below are several strategies to achieve those goals:

  • Coordinate efforts among public agencies, conservation, historic, agricultural, and other related groups to achieve economies of scale and maximize preservation and open space opportunities.
  • Place open space network planning at the forefront of development designs.
  • Continue to improve and coordinate local planning efforts.
  • Encourage conservation design developments that reserve large areas of open space and locate residential development in less pristine areas of the land.
  • Balance open space preservation with demand for development.

The Kendall County Open Space and Natural Areas Plan acts in the same manner as a comprehensive plan. It is not a zoning map. It identifies special places and sets a vision to maintain them as open space. The draft map may not have identified all opportunities, therefore if others arise that are not on the map, they should be considered according to the approach used in this plan. This plan is not intended to limit opportunities; there will always be more, but it sets a minimum vision for the county.

Implementation will occur through coordinated and collaborative efforts by the project partners. It will require creative approaches to leverage funds for acquisition or reach agreements on lands to be developed. It will include public acquisition, private conservation (landowners working to permanently preserve special places on their land), and conservation in subdivision developments. It may also involve regulatory agencies such as the US Army Corps of Engineers, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, or the Environmental Protection Agency.


The draft Open Space and Natural Areas Plan was developed through the collaboration of a Steering Committee who cooperatively set open space goals, defined open space, and identified appropriate areas to preserve and connect open space throughout Kendall County. It sets a long range vision for a county-wide open space system. It can be a policy document to guide decisions and a resource to realize that system. The goal is to increase the pace of land conservation in Kendall County by identifying lands to be preserved and then working actively to preserve those lands. This Plan builds on the efforts to protect open space that have been and continue to be demonstrated by Kendall County, the Kendall County Forest Preserve District, all municipalities in Kendall County, as well as its park districts because it uses the comprehensive plans from each entity to create the basis for the draft Open Space and Natural Areas map. It also identifies lands with high natural quality and environmentally sensitive areas using information gathered from a variety of resources.

The urgency to protect open space in Kendall has never been greater. We must act now.

Copyright © 2005- The Conservation Foundation