WYCC doc celebrates the Forest Preserves’ centennial

The Cook County Forest Preserves’ open spaces, streams, prairies, birds, animals and more will be available for television audiences to enjoy when the documentary celebrating its centennial premieres May 15 on WYCC/20 at 7 p.m.

The one-hour doc, “Chicago’s True Nature: The Forest Preserves of Cook County,” was produced by WYCC/20 PBS Chicago with Judith McCray’s Juneteenth Productions began for a $184,000 budget provided by Cook County.

The project began in April 2014 with a conversation over lunch about the Forest Preserves’ upcoming 100th anniversary between the Forest Preserves’ executive producer Mary Pat Dailey Cross AND WYCC’s Director of Revenue and Development Shaunese Teamer.

Discussions continued until October when WYCC was given the greenlight and brought TV documentary specialist McCray aboard. Production began in February, 2015 and was completed last month.

Juneteenth’s blended crew of WYCC and freelancers filmed in five different quadrants of the Forest Preserves’ 69,000 acres of open space, McCray says, “to demonstrate the ways people are aware and unaware of the abundance of nature and its bio-diversity of birds, plants, animals and insects.

“Like a lot of Cook County residents,” she says, “my team and I had no idea of the science and restoration that goes on in the Forest Preserves. Their biologists are the forerunners in keeping us safe, by checking animals and insects to prevent disease from moving into the general population.”

The documentary’s premiere at the IMAX theatre last Wednesday was attended by County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; Forest Preserve District of Cook County General Superintendent Arnold Randall; several Cook County Commissioners and the producers.

A special screening for Forest Preserves’ employees will be held Friday at Brookfield Zoo. Encore broadcasts on WYCC on May 16, May 21 and May 22.

Credits: Juneteenth’s McCray and Heidi Zersen wrote and produced and Zersen directed. Supervising producer, Shelley Spencer. DP was doc specialist Jamin Townsley of Detroit; videographer, Felix Mendez, additional videography Mitch Nasser, John Dewey, Darryl Miller, Erasmo Rivera and Greg Burnett.

Editor, Eryn Walanka contributing editor Marilyn Joy; motion graphics, Dave Pellenz. Audio technicians, Alan Chow and Brian Peyrot; associate producers Mina Adibpour , Carla Nichamin, Eva Green and Megan Etlinger.

Kymberli Colbourne narrated.