Cook County, Illinois, has plans to create hiking trails, gardens, interpretive areas, and perhaps a museum on the land that was formerly the county’s poor farm during the Great Depression. There are more than 170 acres of forest and wetlands in Oak Forest Heritage Preserve, which is 25 miles south of downtown Chicago. The poor farm was almost turned into a business park, but poor economic conditions in 2007 ended that venture and the land remained undeveloped.
The land was also used as a cemetery for the indigent until 1971; records show that over 90,000 people were buried there during the area’s tenure as a county cemetery, poor farm, and tuberculosis sanatorium. There are also sites on the land indicating use going back thousands of years, and planners hope to develop interpretive displays for the archaeological site that was discovered on the property in the 1950s.
The master plan for the park has already been released, and in November, 2012, parts of the Oak Forest Heritage Preserve were officially opened to the public.