A new forest preserve featuring access to one of the highest quality lakes in Lake County will take shape in a pending $7.5 million deal that long has been on the wish list.
Approvals are in motion for the Lake County Forest Preserve District to acquire adjoining parcels on the west side of Lake Marie in Antioch Township, including frontage on the lake and Route 59 and West Beach Grove Road.
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One of the parcels in far northern Lake County is the site of the county's first campground, according to forest district officials. That use will continue for one more season as a condition of the pending sale, which was enthusiastically recommended for approval Monday by the forest board's land preservation and acquisition committee.
"There just aren't many opportunities that are going to come along like this," said committee member Melinda Bush. "Even in today's market, it's amazing to get that type of access on Lake Marie," at the price of about $33,000 an acre, she added.
The board's finance committee will consider the purchase Thursday and the full board will vote on it Jan. 17.
The site is tentatively to be known as Pelican Bay for the migratory birds that have been seen there. The pending purchase includes 85 boat slips -- a valuable commodity whose numbers are limited -- as well as piers and docks.
That was a key component of the purchase, which is expected to close in November. How the slips and other facilities will be used is to be determined.
"One of the nice things we have on this one is time because we won't take title until the fall," said Executive Director Tom Hahn. "We don't have a site like this, we really don't."
Hahn noted a 1939 aerial photo that showed wooded areas near the lake.
"Not a lot has changed," he said.
The pending purchases involve 77 acres at the northwest corner of West Beach Grove Road and Route 59 -- known as the Diamond development. There is also 150 acres west of that known as the Schneider property, a site that had been in the same family for a half century or more.
"It opens up a lot of possibilities for us long term," according to Hahn. "Great access to Lake Marie and great visibility."
Hahn said the district made an offer 10 years ago but the family wasn't ready. This time, their attorney approached the forest district but negotiations the last three months have been "very intense", he added.
"It became difficult at the end to put that signature on the contract and say, `We're going to sell it,'" he said. "It's a change in a person's life."
About 80 campers are on the Schneider site. Operations will close Sept. 30 and the owners will have to remove any remaining trailers or structures that may be left behind.
The purchase will be made with funds approved by voter in 2008. About $39 million will be left for land acquisition after this purchase, according to Hahn.