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Lake Chaminwood — and visitors — benefit from $750,000 donation

An aerial view shows a new parking lot and freshly seeded ground at Lake Chaminwood.
An aerial view of the project at Lake Chaminwood (Photo by Chad Merda)

Lake Chaminwood Preserve in Troy Township is a popular spot for anglers, kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts, and now it’s a little easier to enjoy thanks to improvements funded in large part by a $750,000 gift from the Dollinger family to The Nature Foundation of Will County. 

In summer 2023, the Forest Preserve reopened the 120-acre preserve to the public after an overhaul that included a parking lot expansion and the construction of a new pedestrian welcome plaza. The project also included new paths to link the preserve’s existing trail. 

The work expanded the parking lot from 21 spots to 74 spots to accommodate the growing number of visitors who frequent the preserve. In addition, a gravel parking lot was added to allow for kayak and canoe trailer parking, which had previously been prohibited.  

The parking expansion was much needed because preserve usage has surpassed expectations since Lake Chaminwood opened in 2012, said Colleen Novander, director of planning and land preservation for the Forest Preserve District.   

“On a given day, it was not uncommon to see the parking lot full between fishermen and fisherwomen, kayakers, families picnicking or people just enjoying nature,” Novander said. “The need for additional parking, including trailer parking became evident, in addition to the need for an upgraded kayak and canoe launch.”  

The new look in the pedestrian welcome plaza was created in part by utilizing remnants from the preserve’s past as a quarry. New benches feature rocks pulled from the lake, and large rocks and boulders adorning the space also were taken from the water there. 

The pristine waters in the preserve’s two lakes — one 35 acres and the other 12 acres — are the hallmark feature at Lake Chaminwood, a big draw for anglers, kayakers and canoers. A 0.7-mile paved path surrounds the larger of the two lakes, suitable for walking, jogging, biking and in-line skating in all seasons and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing after a fresh blanket of snow. 

Improvements at the preserve also included the installation of an accessible kayak launch that was funded by an $80,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Boat Grant program.  

With any project, the Forest Preserve stives to maximize local funding by offsetting them with outside grants, sponsorships and donations, Novander said. 

“The Dollinger donation made a substantial impact during the planning phase for the Lake Chaminwood Improvements,” she said. “The donation allowed staff to evaluate the short- and long-range goals for Lake Chaminwood and incorporate these into the overall design.”  

The improvements make Lake Chaminwood Preserve easier for more people in the community to enjoy, but the work is not done. In 2024, another phase of improvements will be completed. This work will include the addition of two accessible fishing piers and a short, 0.25-mile trail extension that will allow the Lake Chaminwood Trail to connect to the I&M Canal State Trail. This trail link will eventually allow the DuPage River Trail to connect to the I&M Canal State Trail. 

Novander said support from the Nature Foundation of Will County was key in working directly with the Dollinger family to ensure the end results were consistent with both the family’s desires as well as the mission of the Forest Preserve.   

“Without this financial contribution toward the project, the end result would have been scaled back, or completed as a series of additional phases as funding became available,” she said. 


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