Crabtree marijuana bust not an isolated operation in forest preserves

October 15, 2012

While past articles were exclusive to the Crab Tree Nature Preserve in northwest Cook County, one must not lose sight that in addition to Crabtree Nature Preserve, there are five other nature education centers located in Cook County. These six (6) Cook County Nature Preserves provide gateways for discovering the natural diversity that make up Cook County. Each center offers programs and displays of plant and animal life indicative to the region.

Following are the six Cook County Nature Center Preserves: Crabtree Nature Preserve; River Trail Nature Center; Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center; Hal Tyrell Trailside Museum; Sand Ridge Nature Center; and Sagawau Environment Learning Center.

Discussed in my two prior blog posts was the massiveness of the Crabtree Forest Preserve marijuana-growing operation in the summer of 2007, discovered near the northwest suburb of Barrington Hills, and located on 1,650 acres of rolling, glacier- formed landscape purchased in the mid-1960’s by the Cook County Forest Preserve District, about 200 yards from a highway commuters hum along every day. Since the purchase of the Crabtree acreage, there has been an on-going mission to restore the area to its natural state, as it once existed before 1830, when forest prairie and marsh were the norm before people brought rapid change to the countryside. http://www.policeonecom/pc_print.asp?vid=1292910

How could paths be made and fields cleared through the dense foliage to establish eleven fields, and thee campsites, WITHOUT BEING DETECTED? As Cook County Forest Preserve Police Chief mused at the time: “They probably worked day and night.”,000-plants-near-my-town.211836/

Granted, the Crabtree Nature Preserve is so thick with bushes and plants that construction equipment had to be brought in to clear paths for the more than 50 Cook County and DEA officers and maintenance workers to rip up the tall pot plants, count them, and toss them on burning pyres. Furthermore, before the evacuation of the marijuana fields it was difficult to spot any of the hidden entrances off the suburbs roads that border Crabtree Forest Preserve. To avoid detection, much care was also taken to shield the pot fields from helicopters by leaving squat trees in place.

Even so, no body heard or saw or smelled anything?

How could pumps and electrical generators and gasoline and pipes be brought in and then a continuous supply of food for the workers, where 30,000 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of at least $10 million were discovered.

And only two 23-year old Mexican immigrants were found and prosecuted, with law enforcement looking for a third fellow. At the time Gary Olenkiewicz, a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, admitted that Rangel and Verra were not the ringleaders, and that they were likely just two of the many field workers involved with the hidden Crabtree fields. According to Olenkiewicz, “This investigation is just beginning. We have a lot of work to do.”

Why did it take an intern to stumble upon three workers and sound the alarm while studying foxes, despite a Cook County Watchmen Program being in place? Part 5 will discuss the resident “Watchmen Program” which puts forest preserve staff on the front lines of any after-hours emergency in exchange for below-market-rate government residences.

Was the Crabtree Nature Preserve the only Cook County Nature Preserve with a marijuana-growing operation? Over a ten-year period research provided these additional marijuana-growing operations within forest preserves.

1.) June, 2002

4,500 marijuana plants found growing in the Paul Douglas Forest Preserve near Ela and Algonquin roads and neighborhoods in Hoffman Estates and Inverness with an estimated street value of at more than $3 million.

Chance arrest of seven teens when a Hoffman Estates police officer saw them crossing Algonquin carrying plants and picking buds off the plants. All were arrested and charged with possession of marijuana. – “Teens charged after pot field found” by Patrick Corcoran

2.) July, 2007 – Crabtree Forest Preserve in Cook County

3.) August, 2008

4,000 marijuana plants were “discovered” in two wooded areas near Hebron in McHenry County. The field found southwest of Hebron, owned the the McHenry County Conservation District, was believed to be part of the same Hebron operation.

Almost $3.8 million worth of pot was torched. One man arrested.

4.) August, 2009

6,000 plants tucked away in a patch of woods in the Sneed Forest Preserve in Palos Township found cultivated in six fields along a stream.

If harvested the $12,000 pounds of pot would have had a street value of almost $2.5 million.

5.) September, 2011

Cook County Forest Preserve employee and “resident watchman” was busted for growing pot on own watch near her Cook County Forest Preserve-owned house in Tampier South Woods in the Chicago southwest suburb of Orland Park along with her partner.

Cynthia Wojtanowski was served by an eviction notice and was both Wojtanowski and her boyfriend were charged with a felony count of marijuana production.

6.) September, 2012

200 marijuana plants located in Pratt’s Wayne Woods southwest of Bartlett in DuPage County. An Algonquin resident was charged with production or possession of 200 plants, intent to deliver, and criminal damage to property.

Value at $1.4 million of unharvested marijuana in the three plot grow operation.

7.) October, 2012

1,500 plants about 8 feet tall, some as tall as Christmas Trees — “two football fields worth” – found growing in the open 500 feet east of Stoney Island on the city’s South Side. Noted as a “secluded prairie area” where growers took great pains to ensure the crop was largely hidden by a canopy of trees and surrounding vegetation.

Plants having a street value of between $7 million and $10 million were discovered just by chance by a police helicopter after having flown over the same field many times

How did marijuana become such a big ‘cash crop’ in this nation? This is true especially in CA, where marijuana growing bust occur almost every day. As in CA, authorities across this nation are convinced that regardless of where marijuana-growing operations are found, the intent is criminal and not medical.

Article 4 of my continuing series on marijuana, with a second look at the 2007 massive Crabtree operation, will focus on reasons for the increase of marijuana farming operations in forest district preserves, not only in Cook and surrounding counties, but also in national, state and county parks throughout this nation. Might one of the reasons have to do with the value of just one marijuana plant? And what about the street value of marijuana?


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