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Forest Preserve District vows to mow the grass

Residents voice skepticism of plan

Published: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 10:52 p.m. CDT

JOLIET – Homeowners who live next to the Forest Preserve District of Will County land are skeptical of the district’s plan to mow land next to private property.

During the district’s operations committee meeting Wednesday, officials told residents from the River Glen subdivision near Shorewood they will mow certain boundaries every two weeks. Officials said the schedule is only pertinent during the growing season in highly residential areas such as Hammel Woods, which abuts River Glen.

The district is in the process of cracking down on neighbors who encroach upon forest preserve property, even if only to mow the grass.

Glen Gornik, who lives in River Glen, said he is worried because the mowing schedule isn’t in writing.

He said he’s concerned about the district falling behind, noting the tall grass attracts animals, such as coyotes, and mosquitoes. In previous years, the boundaries had been cut only twice a year, he said.

“If they don’t cut it, let’s say they don’t get to it, and it goes a couple of weeks, or three or four weeks, what recourse do we have?” Gornik said at the meeting.

“Call us,” Forest Preserve District Director Marcy DeMauro responded.

The district is stepping up its maintenance efforts following a survey this spring of 12 of the district’s 82 preserves. Staff found 214 encroachments on forest preserve land by people living along it. Many were homeowners mowing grass on the border. But others dumped trash. Some built permanent structures, gardens or fences.

Of the 214 encroachment violations discovered by the district earlier this spring, 79 were for mowing on district property. Letters sent in May informed property owners they are illegally using public land and that they must comply with the district’s policies.

The letter also stated residents must immediately cease mowing, or remove items within 45 days. Otherwise, they’ll face a fine. Deadlines were extended for mowing violations after concerns were raised in June about a proper mowing schedule.

On Wednesday, district officials said they intend to mow a strip of grass between 15 and 30 feet every two weeks along boundaries in areas including Hammel Woods and Lower Rock Run Preserve.

Another River Glen resident, Paula Rohder, said the boundary at her home was mowed once this summer but it was only a small strip of grass.

DeMauro said the district is making a “unique accommodation” by establishing a mowing schedule.

“This is not a typical practice. We’re making a unique accommodation here because we understand that there’s been a historical usage of that property in that way and there’s an expectation there and we have a high density of residents,” she said. “That is not a level of maintenance that we can do throughout our forest preserve system.”

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