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updated: 1/19/2012 2:51 PM

Commissioner calls golf at Fort Sheridan 'a waste of resources'

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  • No developers are interested in building and operating a 9-hole golf course at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, officials said.

    No developers are interested in building and operating a 9-hole golf course at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, officials said.
    Paul Valade/Daily Herald File Photo 2009

  • Steve Carlson

    Steve Carlson

  • Susan Loving Gravenhorst

    Susan Loving Gravenhorst

  • Tom Hahn

    Tom Hahn

  • Video: 2010 Fort Sheridan golf talks

  • Video: Pfaff talks golf plan, 2010


Private developers have shown no interest in building a new golf course at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve in Highland Park, officials confirmed Thursday.

A deadline for proposals recently passed with no inquiries. So forest board commissioners -- who unenthusiastically sought corporate proposals for the construction and operation of a 9-hole course last year -- will again debate what to do with the property.

Forest district Executive Director Tom Hahn said he'll present board members with options at a meeting in February or March.

He hasn't yet developed recommendations for the panel but said recasting the request for private proposals won't be among them.

Forest district Commissioner Steve Carlson, an outspoken foe of spending public money on a golf course at Fort Sheridan, said the lack of public-sector interest shows golf no longer is a viable option at the former Army base.

Carlson was among the commissioners who voted in June to seek private-sector proposals as a procedural maneuver, and he wasn't surprised by the results.

"If it were fiscally viable, somebody would do it," said Carlson, a Gurnee Republican. "It's a waste of resources (and) a waste of time."

Not everyone on the board agrees.

Lake Bluff Republican Susan Gravenhorst remains committed to golf at Fort Sheridan and said she hopes a plan that would blend golf with attractions for nature lovers can be developed.

"I'm not giving that up," she said. "We still are getting the best of nature and the best of sports with that."

An 18-hole golf course was part of the roughly 250-acre Fort Sheridan property when the forest district acquired it from the U.S. Army in the 1990s. The deal included a promise to keep a course open there forever.

The original layout was torn up in 2003 to make way for a planned high-end course, but that plan was scuttled after cost estimates came in millions of dollars higher than originally discussed.

No golf has been played at Fort Sheridan since then. Many forest board members have said the decline in golf play and the recession have made such a project financially unfeasible, while others say they must have golf in some form to meet the terms of the Army deal.

The delay has angered many residents of the adjoining Town of Fort Sheridan who said they were promised a course when they bought their homes.

A 9-hole course was expected to cost $10 million to build. The board voted 12-10 to seek proposals from developers, a divide that reflects the commissioners' nearly decade-long inability to unite behind a single plan for Fort Sheridan's future.

The deadline to submit a proposal was Jan. 6. A consultant with the National Golf Foundation told forest district officials in August that interest would be slim.

Gravenhorst said she "was sure there would be some spark of interest, somewhere." But none appeared.

Ralph Pfaff, who served as the homeowner association's president until last year, said he wasn't surprised by the lack of developer interest. The plan was designed to fail, he said, because the forest board offered no financial support and wanted to control the potential cost of play.

"I expected that outcome as soon as I heard what they were doing," said Pfaff, who spent most of the last decade campaigning for golf at Fort Sheridan.

Carlson believes forest district leaders should ask the Army to eliminate the deed restriction and let them do something else with the land.

Relieved of the golf mandate, district officials could create amenities that would celebrate Fort Sheridan's environmental features and history, Carlson said.

"There's no place like it in the world," he said. "We could make a showplace out of it that would make the residents very happy."

Pfaff certainly isn't happy now. Officials knew the request for private proposals would be a wild-goose chase, he insisted.

"They're just dotting the i's and crossing the t's to go to the Army and let them off the hook," Pfaff said.

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