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updated: 2/23/2012 9:43 PM

Dist. 2 Dem. candidates differ on whether forest preserve should be in golf business

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  • Diane Hewitt

      Diane Hewitt

  • Beverly Stackhouse-Mull

      Beverly Stackhouse-Mull

  • Mark Stricklin

      Mark Stricklin

 
 

Candidates vying for the Democrat nomination for Lake County Board District 2 agree the county should scrap any plans for a golf course at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve.

However, at least two of the candidates on the March 20 primary ballot disagree on whether Lake County should abandon all golf management.

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Incumbent Diane Hewitt, 57, of Waukegan said she is against Lake County funding and creating a golf course at Fort Sheridan, but the county should continue to own and operate its other public golf courses as long as they are making money.

Challenger Mark Stricklin, 56, of Beach Park said the county should abandon any plans for golf at Fort Sheridan and look for a management company to take over the operation of its other golf courses.

The third candidate, Beverly Stackhouse-Mull, age unlisted, of Zion, said she was against a golf course there but declined to give an explanation or answer follow-up questions about golf in Lake County.

District 2 covers portions of Gurnee, Waukegan, Zion and Beach Park. No Republican filed to run in the primary in March, but the party can field a candidate for the November general election.

County board members double as forest preserve commissioners, so the issue will be ongoing.

The forest district sent requests for proposals to privately fund, build and operate a 9-hole course to 905 recipients comprised of golf course builders, developers, contractors and management companies. No responses were received.

An 18-hole golf course was part of the roughly 250-acre Fort Sheridan property when the forest district acquired it from the Army in the 1990s. The deal included a promise to keep a course open there forever, but the original layout was torn up in 2003 to make way for a planned high-end course.

That plan was scrapped after cost estimates came in much higher than originally discussed.

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

Hewitt said in a Daily Herald candidate questionnaire and again during an endorsement interview with the newspaper's editorial board that she opposes a Fort Sheridan golf course because she feels the forest district should not "be in the golf business beyond what they currently are."

She added, "If private vendors are not interested in the project, why should Lake County be interested."

Hewitt also said Lake County should remain in the golf business only if the public course is financially breaking even or turning a profit.

Stricklin said Lake County should have never been in the golf business.

"The economics of golf courses are up and down," he said. "I am an avid golf lover and a member of Chicago District Golf Association, but county government should not be in that business or providing recreational service."

He proposes a private management company be brought in to operate the county's existing golf courses, with rent being paid to the county.

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