Cook County weighs Rolling Knolls' future
After sitting vacant for about a year, ideas for how to bring new life to 55 acres that once made up the Rolling Knolls Golf Course are being tossed around by the Cook County Forest Preserve District and nearby residents.
Forest Preserve officials said at the very least they are hoping to reopen a portion of the property, in unincorporated Hanover Township at 11N260 Rohrssen Road, to the public by the middle of the upcoming year.
The district purchased the 18-hole golf course and banquet facility from Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider's family in January 2010 for $5.75 million.
The district had a town hall meeting last week to show residents the potential development plans, and to let the more than 80 attendees speak.
Chris Slattery, the forest district's director of planning and development, told residents that keeping a golf course there is pretty unlikely.
Slattery said reopening a golf course would require a big capital investment.
"Even if that investment were made, there has been increasing competition in the area," she said. "It's just not financially sustainable."
Traditional offerings — like fishing, winter sports, walking trails, picnic groves and natural restoration — are on the table. So are more modern ideas, like a dog park, an outdoor concert venue, disc golf, rope courses and campgrounds.
Slattery doesn't have estimates yet for how much money even simple changes to the landscape, like trails, would cost.
"Even something really basic could be a seven-figure number," she said. "Trails really vary on a per-mile cost, depending on the conditions. There's no easy rule of thumb for those costs."
"The reaction (at the town hall meeting) to those concepts was generally mixed," Slattery said. "Campgrounds was definitely one where there was concern."
The forest preserve district currently has a team working on a master plan specifically for its campground system. Slattery said consultants will have recommendations in about six months of what to do regarding campground development within properties already owned by the district.
"That's going to be part of the consideration of what happens at Rolling Knolls," she said. "We did hear loud and clear at the meeting that people do not want that, but we don't even know what (the campgrounds) would look like. It seems pretty premature to say no to every form of potential campgrounds."
She said at present the district has fewer than a dozen campgrounds, used primarily by children in Scout troops who stay for overnight trips.
She said the district hopes to expand its campgrounds to include facilities, such as lodges or retreat centers, for people of all ages. Camps for a variety of interests, such as an equestrian camp, are also possibilities.
"Nothing is off the table right now," she said of Rolling Knolls' future. "It's still early."
Slattery urged residents to visit the forest preserve's website and Facebook page to leave suggestions for developing the property. She said given the strong level of interest from residents, the forest district is planning to host another town hall meeting within the next six months to go over more detailed development plans.
The Rolling Knolls property was a farm in the early 20th century. It was purchased in 1949 by the Schneider family, who converted it to a nine-hole golf course in 1962, and then to 18 holes in 1989.
In December 2008, the Elgin City Council approved a housing development on part of the land, but shortly thereafter the county expressed its intention to purchase the property.
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