SYCAMORE – The site of a former mobile home park is now the newest addition to the DeKalb County Forest Preserve.
Bike trails, picnic areas and two shelter houses are now open to the public at the Sycamore Forest Preserve at 955 E. State St.
"We're glad to have it open for the public," Terry Hannan, the DeKalb County Forest Preserve's superintendent, said. "There was a lot of interest in it."
The preserve was originally scheduled to open last year, but that was delayed while awaiting approval from the Federal Emergency Management Association. The county needed FEMA to certify that all of the necessary work at the site, which is in the Kishwaukee River's floodplain, was completed before it could transfer ownership of the property to the forest preserve. That approval hasn't come yet.
"We were supposedly at the top of the list," Hannan said. "But with the three hurricanes, they're busy."
A workaround was found when DeKalb County bought a liability insurance policy to open the preserve before it transferred ownership to the Forest Preserve. The policy cost $61, and the park opened officially Monday.
"It's been sitting idle for several months," DeKalb County Administrator Gary Hanson said. "It's a huge asset and resource to the community; it was a travesty it was sitting idle for so long."
The park is 60 acres and includes a bike trail that connects to the Great Western Trail and trails for cross country skiing. There are wood sculptures throughout the park as well, carved from the stumps of dead trees by preserve maintenance worker Bob Knuuttila, Hannan said.
"We left the stumps when clearing the dead trees," he said. Knuuttila then carved the sculptures with a chainsaw.
The park will still flood, as did the mobile home park before it, but Hannan said he expects the water to flow through better with fewer obstructions. The park will close when flooded, he said.
The park is already getting use. Brian Mauch of Sycamore said he was driving past when he saw cars parked and people walking around. He brought his daughter, Kelly, to the park Tuesday to ride on the trails. When the area was the Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park, he said he and his family would come to the park and help children of residents with their homework.
"It had to go," he said, "but it's good to see it repurposed."