The Joliet Arsenal Ammunition Plant was active under the auspices of the U.S. Army on this land for 60 years. During World War II, the arsenal was the nation’s leading producer of munitions. In 1993, a citizen’s advisory committee was tasked with finding a way to re-purpose the land. There were many ideas on what could be done with these 23,000 acres.
In February of 1996, the Illinois Land & Conservation Act was signed by U.S. Congress.
This is how the land was divided:
455 acres were allotted for a landfill to be used by Will County. If you look to the southeast of where you now stand you will often see trucks atop the highest point in Will County.
982 acres were set aside for what was to become the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.
3000 acres were divided into two industrial parks at the north and south ends of Midewin.
19,161 acres were given to the U.S. Forest Service to become Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.
Planting a prairie didn’t start immediately. A plan had to be made. A temporary headquarters was established in an old farmhouse and staff were hired. Drain tiles, roads, and old buildings were removed. Removal of invasive plant species continues.