Community Research Forest
93 acres | 1 mile looped trail
Open Daily Sunrise to Sunset (Some sites are subject to Seasonal Closures or closures due to special circumstances).
20411 Streit Road, Harvard
GPS 42.385686, -88.595788
The 93-acre Community Research Forest offers visitors a one-mile looped nature trail along relatively level ground with gentle slopes that crosses a couple of intermittent streams with stepping stones, making for an easy, single-file hike. There is also a bench overlooking a small pond along the way. There’s a small three car gravel lot.
In July of 2013, the protection of the Community Research Forest was made possible through a creative partnership between The Land Conservancy of McHenry County, a private landowner, McHenry County Conservation District and a grant from Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. The Conservation District purchased 53 acres, funded in large part by a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation; and The Land Conservancy of McHenry County maintains a 40 acre conservation easement donated by a private landowner.
The Community Research Forest is a complex array of wooded natural communities dominated by white, red, black, scarlet and bur oaks intermixed with both young and mature 200–300 year old trees, including co–dominant species of bitternut hickory and black cherry. The balance of the natural areas consists of sedge meadow, ephemeral ponds, intermittent streams, and former pasture.
Significance of Land Protection Efforts
Straddling the western edge of the Marengo Ridge near Harvard, Illinois, the Community Research Forest is part of a cluster of previously protected natural areas, a near contiguous stretch of land identified on the McHenry County Green Infrastructure Plan and the Conservation District Land Protection Plan as the Brookdale Oak Woodland and Wetland Complex. Together this cluster of oak ecosystem sites encompasses over 2,700 acres of protected land preserved by several entities and private individuals. The complex includes the Conservation District’s Rush Creek and Brookdale Conservation Areas, the TLC Gateway Park, Marengo Moraine, Woodstock Center and Frisbie Conservation Areas, and the privately owned Halo Hills Nature Preserve. The Community Research serves as an important component of the Conservation District’s Land Protection Plan for the Big Woods section of the county.
The Big Woods of McHenry County once extended for miles from Marengo to Alden, straddling the steep topography of the Marengo Ridge. Today only scattered remnants of that massive woodland survive, with most of those blocks less than twenty acres in size. The opportunity to preserve a nearly one hundred acre stand of oaks is rare and the potential to study their ecosystem components in a large block equally unusual.