CHICAGO (CBS) — One of the treasures of Cook County, the Cook County Forest Preserve District, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. On Wednesday, county commissioners paid tribute to the district’s founders.

Commissioners gave a lengthy standing ovation to the descendants of Dwight Perkins and Jens Jensen, the original founders of the Cook County Forest Preserves, who were on hand to mark the 100th anniversary of the district’s first board meeting in 1915.

Commissioner Peter Silvestri (R-9th) grew up near a preserve in Elmwood Park.

“People from other places don’t realize the great assests that we have in having this ring of forest preserves in an urbanized area,” he said.

The initial 500 acres of preserves has morphed into nearly 70,000 acres, and growing, which Commissioner Bridget Gainer (D-10th) called a “release valve” for city residents.

“There’s a lot of hassles to city living. Sometimes the proximity to each other doesn’t always lead to the best outcomes, and so having this release valve is an incredible thing,” she said.

Commissioner Joan Murphy (D-6th) grew up in Boston, and said she has an outsider’s appreciation for the forest preserve.

“When I came to Chicago, I was thinking of this big city, you know, like New York, where I’d been several times, and then I discovered the forest preserve; this beautiful emerald necklace that surrounds the city of Chicago,” she said.

Commissioner Gregg Goslin (R-14th) said it would have been hard to imagine a century ago that the city would creep so close to the preserves.

“A hundred years ago, or 89 years ago, they bought that property out in Palatine, that was way out in the sticks from the center of the city, so it was a great vision,” he said.

Forest preserve land now takes up 10 percent of Cook County’s footprint.

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