America’s Great Outdoors goes to my kind of town, Chicago

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

My favorite weekends of my childhood began with my dad stuffing duffle bags, lanterns, mess kits, sleeping bags, a tent and cooler into the trunk of our car. Everything else was strapped to the roof with bungee cords. My family—including our beloved dog, Gibson—would set out on our camping trips. Sometimes we took 94-East to the Indiana Dunes National Park. Other times, we took 94-West to Wisconsin, and would descend upon Blue Mound State Park. On shorter weekends, we would go to Starved Rock State Park, just west of the city.

For parents raising two young kids, camping outside of Chicago was the most economically sensible way to get us outside and connected to nature. Whatever campsite we ventured to was our Yellowstone or Yosemite, and we didn’t need to fly across the country to experience our great outdoors.

This week, Obama administration officials were in Chicago listening to our ideas about conservation as part of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative.

America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) is an opportunity to transform conservation for the 21st century, and leave a legacy that future generations can enjoy. Our public lands provide health, economic and recreation benefits that sustain our communities.

The Obama administration should protect the nature that surrounds the Chicagoland area. The Shawnee National Forest and other treasured areas in Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan have provided a retreat and respite from the city and suburbs for centuries. We need to connect, protect and restore these threatened and disappearing forests and lakeshores. Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, just hours outside of Chicago, is a premier example of what communities are trying to protect.

It has been years since I have been back to the natural heritage of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin that fed my love for the great outdoors. As a child, I was fortunate to experience our shared public lands, and as an adult I work to protect them. The days of the old hatchback are long gone, but I remember them fondly as I continue to experience our wild places.

Please share your favorite camping place with the Obama administration as part of America’s Great Outdoors and explain why you want to protect our shared special places.

This was cross-posted on National Wildlife Federation’s website.

Photo: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.