Due to the staggering generosity of the Sam and Dorothy Dean estate, one of the most beautiful and valuable parcels of land in the Chicago area has been donated to the village of Oak Brook and preserved as a nature sanctuary. The Dean Nature Preserve is located just over the county line, west of the Bemis Woods. This land is not only very scenic and pristine, but also serves as a vital link to bring riders safely into DuPage County from Cook County.
Anyone who hates riding on the streets of Chicagoland as much as I do can tell you that there are very few safe passages over the I-294 corridor into DuPage County, meaning that most riders are stopped at the end of the Bemis Woods/Salt Creek bicycle trail and must turn around. After all, riding down 31st Street, Cermak Road or Ogden Avenue is practically suicidal. This is a shame, as there are lots of great trails to be explored as you proceed west into DuPage County from western Cook County.
The land that comprises the Dean estate forms the bridge riders need to get across into DuPage safely, and also offers some excellent trail riding on its' own. For years, riders in the know would take the creek trail on the north bank of the Salt Creek through Bemis Woods North, proceeding behind the Meadowlark Golf Course to sneak under I-294, onto Canterbury Lane and into DuPage. This did invlove a few hundred feet of trespassing to accomplish, but the Deans didn't seem to mind.
With the quiet takeover of this land by the village of Oak Brook, we can now proceed into DuPage and on to Fullersburg Woods and the McDonald's campus without trespassing, not to mention that we can now explore all the trails that lace the Dean property. These trails are mostly doubletrack width, but the village of Oak Brook will need to drive a van down them regularly to keep them wide enough for ambulance and public works access. A recent storm has toppled a few trees across some trails, but these are not insurmountable.
We can now ride all the way from the Brookfield Zoo to Highland Avenue in Downers Grove without touching any busy streets except to cross them! This is all trail riding, mostly either paved or limestone screened except for a couple miles of singletrack, and is ride-friendly even after heavy rains due to its' elevation above the Salt Creek valley.
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The magnatude of this generous endowment cannot be overstated. In today's Oak Brook real estate market, this property is worth untold millions, yet the Deans chose to preserve this land in its natural state for posterity, giving us lucky area riders a very tranquil, almost untouched green space which, due to its' lack of automobile accomodations, should remain very clean and lightly used for years to come. Walk or ride your bike in today and be amazed at the beauty of this park, and be sure to have a good thought for the Dean family, who made this all possible.
Be advised that there are no vehicles allowed on the property, nor is there any street parking allowed on Canterbury Lane, so this is a park that can be enjoyed only on foot or by bike (I, of course, recommend the latter!). There are not yet any trash recepticles on the grounds, so you should probably eat your lunch elsewhere and then come and explore.
Enjoy your ride and be sure to contact us with your trail finds, suggestions or requests. Be sure to check out our map page for detailed views of all the local trail networks, and check out our real-time water level reading page before setting off on the Salt Creek in a canoe. We are very lucky to live near this great greenway, and this web site endeavors to let you make the most of it!