A master plan to be drawn for the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve will not include a golf course, a decision buoyed by an opinion from the Army in response to the city of Highwood, Lake County Forest Preserve District officials said Tuesday.
Forest preserve commissioners three months ago voted 21-1 to ask the Army to remove a deed restriction that called for a golf course on the property in perpetuity. But that request had yet to be made.
Instead, a response from Paul Cramer, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army, to Highwood Mayor Charlie Pecaro showed that wasn't necessary, said Tom Hahn, executive director of the forest preserve district.
"The Army's interpretation was pretty clear," Hahn said. "It clearly indicates recreational open space was acceptable to them."
With the golf industry in decline and no private investors showing interest in building or operating a course there, forest preserve commissioners determined that creating other features for public use of the property was a better alternative.
After that decision, Pecaro in April sent a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh reaffirming the city's support of the deed restriction adding that a golf course was the best long-term use of the property.
Development of a golf course would enhance open space, provide a "much anticipated amenity for the community as promised," preserve a long-term vision, the letter said.
Cramer responded the Army was aware of the forest district's action but had not received a request to remove the deed restriction.
He added that while the Army carefully considers requests it receives, the current lack of use as a golf course is not a sufficient basis for the Army to preclude that potential use in the future.
"But the Army also does not have the authority to compel the LCFPD to develop and operate a golf course," Cramer wrote. He added that so long as the property is not something other than a golf course or open space, it wasn't necessary for the Army to change the deeds or take other action.
Hahn said the district delayed contacting the Army after meeting with Highland Park officials and opting to host an open house to get public input on what amenities were favored. The open house is from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Midwest Young Artists Center, 878 Lyster Road, Highwood, on the Fort Sheridan property.
"We'll get those comments and that will be the start of a conceptual master plan for the site," Hahn said.