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News Release

District Moves One Step Closer to Approving Willowbrook Wildlife Center Project

Improvements will advance wildlife care, community engagement, and sustainability
The DuPage Forest Preserve District board on Tuesday reviewed an ambitious $25.5 million master plan project for Willowbrook Wildlife Center that would transform the center and make it the District’s first net-zero designed building.
The board reviewed the plans at a Tuesday night planning session and is expected to vote on the guaranteed maximum-price contract with Wight & Company to design and build the facility at its April 19 meeting.

The centerpiece of the project is a 27,000-square-foot wildlife rehabilitation clinic and visitor center that would replace the current 42-year-old Glen Ellyn building.

Plans also include new outdoor and indoor animal rehabilitation areas, interactive educational exhibits on the wildlife rehabilitation process, an outdoor classroom, an interpretive trail with wildlife observation areas, and outdoor activity spaces that demonstrate how to attract and live in harmony with native wildlife.

The new clinic and visitor center are expected to open to the public in mid-2024, and the entire project is expected to be done by 2025. Wildlife rehabilitation will continue uninterrupted throughout construction.

Net-zero means the energy produced from renewable resources exceeds the energy consumed by a building. Key elements contributing to achieving the net-zero center are ground- and roof-mounted photovoltaic panels, which convert sunlight into electricity, and a geothermal heating and cooling system. The new clinic and visitor center will also integrate energy-efficient features throughout.

“Building a net-zero medical facility will achieve mission-critical improvements to wildlife care in our community and create a beautiful new space for community engagement and learning about conservation and sustainability,” said Kevin Horsfall, assistant director of resource management and development at the Forest Preserve District.

Willowbrook Wildlife Center is a nationally recognized wildlife rehabilitation facility that provides care and medical treatment to approximately 10,000 sick, injured, and orphaned native wildlife each year.

Operated by the DuPage Forest Preserve District since 1956, Willowbrook also supports the District’s threatened and endangered species captive-rearing program. The center is also an environmental and wildlife education resource for the public.

All of Willowbrook’s operating expenses are funded by the Forest Preserve District and private donations. The center does not receive state or federal funds to operate.

“Since 1956 Willowbrook has been a leader in wildlife rehabilitation and education. This ambitious project will allow the District to continue providing exceptional leadership to DuPage County and the greater Chicago region not only in the outstanding care of native wildlife but also in environmental conservation,” said Forest Preserve District President Daniel Hebreard. “I fully expect the board to enthusiastically approve the project and construction contract at our April 19 board meeting.”

In November 2021, the board approved issuing general obligation limited-tax bonds to support District master plan projects. Approximately $22 million from the bond sale will pay for the Willowbrook project. The District is also pursuing an additional $3.5 million in grant funding for the project.

The District has also secured $3.7 million in private donations to support the project. Additional opportunities to contribute are available through the Friends of the Forest Preserve District.

The District began implementing improvements at Willowbrook in 2013 and over the last nine years added a new parking lot, a species recovery building for wildlife rehabilitation, and a 72.2-kilowatt solar array for sustainability.

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has been connecting people to nature for more than 100 years. More than 6.2 million people visit its 60 forest preserves, 166 miles of trails, six education centers and scores of programs each year. For information, call 630-933-7200 or visit, where you can also link to the District’s e-newsletter, FacebookTwitter, Instagram and TikTok pages.