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updated: 6/30/2011 5:55 PM

Kane Co. forest preserve grows with land buy

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Kane County Forest Preserve District officials have closed on their first land purchase since the $30 million spring referendum. The land more than doubles the existing Meissner-Corron Forest Preserve and closes a chapter on a controversy that led, in part, to the incorporation of Campton Hills.

The nearly 350 acres is in Plato and Campton townships at the fringe of Elgin. It once was targeted for a high-density housing development. Residents of the area rallied to incorporate a new municipality to try to stave off Elgin's attempts to expand its southern border.

The development never came to life. The forest preserve district purchased the land from an entity called "Residential Land Fund 1," with approval from its bank, for a total of $6,963,800.

"The forest preserve, by acquiring this land, has just prevented many new homes from being built out there," said Forest Preserve Commissioner Barb Wojnicki. "That will keep several of our local schools from becoming overpopulated, which, in turn, would have led to higher taxes. Open space is the best tax cap."

The additional land increases the size of the Meissner-Corron Forest Preserve to 616 acres by expanding to the west and south. The preserve is home for a wetland with rare wildflowers, lilies and orchids.

Restoration ecologist Ben Haberthur said the land purchase provides an important buffer for the native plant species.

"When this purchase is viewed with existing forest preserve holdings and Campton open space property, we are creating an approximately 860-acre complex of open space," Haberthur said in a written statement. "This acquisition places a buffer around the high-quality Russell Prairie remnant, currently in the process of being dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve. Plus, due to the previously linear shape of Meissner-Corron, much of the wildlife habitat occurred on the edges of the preserve. This preserve addition accommodates the potential creation of larger blocks of habitat."

Forest Preserve District President John Hoscheit said the cooperation of Elgin city officials was key to making the purchase possible. The land was advertised as a key purchase during the push for the $30 million tax increase referendum this spring. Hoscheit said the district had been in line to purchase the property for some time but had to wait until it had the money in hand and the price was right.

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