Hidden Oaks Nature Center to close for renovation for most of 2024 starting Feb. 19

Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Bolingbrook is about to be transformed, but the process will require the facility to be closed for most of the year starting Monday, Feb. 19.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause but promise to be an asset to the community and a great place to visit upon our grand reopening,” said Angie Trobaugh, facility supervisor at the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Hidden Oaks, which is located at 419 Trout Farm Road

Hidden Oaks Preserve also will close on occasion for outdoor renovations during the year, as necessary. The preserve renovations will not affect Hidden Lakes Trout Farm, which is in the northern part of the preserve.

The interior and exterior work at Hidden Oaks Nature Center is designed to convert the former Bolingbrook Park District site, which was purchased by the Forest Preserve in February 2022, into a nature center tailored to Forest Preserve-type exhibits and activities.

“This is a long time coming and very strategic on our part,” Trobaugh said. “We completed a conceptual design plan for the exhibits in 2023 and now we are really excited to see the plan come to life for the community.”

The project will include architectural changes to the interior of the building and new exhibits including:

  • Expansion of the reception and gift shop area.
  • Conversion of the south existing classroom into an exhibit gallery.
  • Replacement of the children’s bathroom with a program staging area.
  • Updated rental space for the public featuring new paint, carpet, cabinets, doors, lighting and a wet bar.
  • A new shade structure outside.
  • An accessible path from the nature center to the nature playscape and the natural amphitheater.

Once the interior of the building is renovated, exhibit work will provide new design features throughout the first floor and a new permanent live animal tank for the nature center’s resident turtles, Trobaugh said. Also, an elaborate indoor birdwatching lookout deck will be installed. This new feature promises to attract advanced birders and beginners alike.

“But the beloved oak tree in the center of the lobby will remain and receive a much-needed overhaul,” she added. “Once the work is completed, the nature center’s theme will be to explore Hidden Oaks to uncover surprising stories of local animals, plants and habitats. Both the construction and exhibit plans are robust and designed with all Will County residents in mind.”

While the theme will be exploration, the nature center’s mission is to “ignite curiosity,” she added.

“The new and improved Hidden Oaks will encourage local community members to discover their natural world through interactive exhibits, educational programs, outdoor spaces and hands-on natural play,” she explained.

Renovation work at Hidden Oaks Nature Center will be documented online as the year progresses, and the periodic closures of Hidden Oaks Preserve also will be publicized on the Current Headlines section of the Forest Preserve’s website, ReconnectWithNature.com, and social media channels.