By Meghan Curtis
Jeremie Bacon, 46 years young, built a small network of technology companies after graduating from the University of Maryland (UMD) with a master’s degree in technological entrepreneurship. Bacon then took on a new challenge: founding and building an outdoor adventure park outside of Chicago.
A Colorado native, Bacon planted his feet in the Windy City after completing his master’s degree, in 2016. Bacon received his bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Global Economic from Brigham Young University and a research diploma in Japanese and economics from the University of Tsukuba, in Japan.
Bacon, who’s a self-taught computer coder, was drawn to UMD’s technology entrepreneurship program, with particular focus on the entrepreneurial elements of that degree. Entrepreneurship “is what you are and who you are,” he emphasized.
After graduating from UMD, Bacon embraced the challenge of taking familiar activities like zip-lining and climbing to new levels to create an adventure park unlike any other in the country. And in July 2020, The Forge: Lemont Quarries Adventure Park was born. Bacon chose to plant his adventure park in Chicago, and proclaimed it the “Walt Disney World of outdoor recreation.” He collaborated with Chicago’s mayor, and their partnership allowed him to establish the park on land that is partially owned by the city.
The park’s many walking trails are open to the public, free of charge. A number of activities in the park are also free, while others, like zip-lining, require waivers and carry an admission fee. The park also hosts ticketed concerts at an amphitheater that can seat 2,000.
The Forge isn’t just for outdoorsy types, though. “There’s something for everyone, for any age and ability,” Bacon said. He founded The Forge on inclusivity, and it is one of a handful of parks in the country that are adapted for people with disabilities. Visitors of all abilities can participate in activities like zip-lining and kayaking.
The adventure park offers fitness classes, too, and holds a popular summer camp for kids.
Like businesses across the country, The Forge has been adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerts and entertainment have been heavily impacted; the amphitheater has held a reduced number of performances, and with limited capacity.
Yes, The Forge: Lemont Quarries is one of a kind — but Bacon hopes to build more like it across the nation in the future.
To check out The Forge: Lemont Quarries, go to forgeparks.com.