County Forest District Ecologist Honored for Pioneering Projects | will-county

Schedule Staff

Will County’s Forest Preserve District has received two awards from the National Association of County Parks and Recreation Officials.

Wildlife ecologist Becky Blankenship of Shorewood won the Young Professional award. The district also won an Outstanding Achievement Award in Parks and Recreation for the Black Road Regional Trail Connection Project, which includes pedestrian bridges over the DuPage River and Interstate 55.

The 2022 NACPRO awards were presented May 15 at the NACPRO conference in Valdosta, Ga.

Blankenship, a 2017 graduate of the University of St. Francis in Joliet, has worked for the Forest Preserve District since June 2020. She is responsible for wildlife monitoring, management and concerns on more than 23,000 acres of reserves. in Will County. During his rookie year, Blankenship started a radio telemetry tracking program to monitor the movements and habitat use of endangered ornate box turtles. She has also worked to establish a passage for turtles along a railway line and she uses game cameras to capture photos of wildlife in the reserves.

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“Hearing the wonderful things said about me at the awards show almost brought me to tears,” Blankenship said in a press release. “It also gave me a moment to reflect on how much I have been able to accomplish in my first year as a wildlife conservationist. I am so proud that my work with county wildlife has been recognized not only by the forest reserve, but also by a national organization.”

The Black Road Regional Trail Connection opened in November 2021 after more than 20 years of planning. The project connects the Rock Run Greenway and DuPage River trails along Black Road and provides safer passage for pedestrians and cyclists between Joliet and Shorewood. The work was complicated and had setbacks over the years.

“The understanding of the importance of connection has remained, as has the dedication of Forest Preserve staff and partnerships with communities,” said Colleen Novander, Forest Preserve’s Director of Land Planning and Preservation, in a press release. “It is truly an honor to be recognized and to receive this award from NACPRO.”

For more information on the Will County Forest Preserve District, visit