You have until Friday to submit your comments on preliminary concept plans for the Fox Bluff Conservation Area in McHenry County that include ideas for the site of the former Camp Algonquin.
The 279-acre Fox Bluff Conservation Area, off Cary Algonquin Road, is owned by the McHenry County Conservation District. The northern half is within the village of Cary, while the southern half -- which includes the former 116-acre camp site that closed last year after 100 years of operation -- is in unincorporated McHenry County.
Right now, only the northern half is open to the public, with a walking and hiking trail that runs from Cold Springs Road to the banks of the Fox River, where people can fish and picnic.
The master plan for the conservation area is in its preliminary stages, and people will have more chances to view and comment on the plans as they are refined, said Amy Peters, MCCD's planning and development manager. The target date for the completion of the planning is March or April 2013, she said.
There are two conceptual options for the northern half, Peters said. The first includes just a few more trails and increased access to the Fox River; the second has a new entrance off Cary Algonquin Road along with a new parking lot, more amenities and space for winter activities such as sledding, cross country skiing and possibly ice skating, Peters said. "This plan basically would provide the most recreation we can provide, with more trails and longer trails," she said.
Officials are looking at three options for the southern half, all of which include community garden plots and recognition of the location of the farmstead of the Gillilan family, early settlers of the county, Peters said.
The former camp site includes 43 to 50 buildings -- depending on what is considered a building, Peters said -- but a preliminary site analysis showed that the majority are in disrepair, she said. Only six buildings have the potential for further use, although a feasibility study will have to determine that, she said.
"Whether that's a museum, whether that's an education center, whether that's for hosting public conferences, weddings, kids' birthday parties, we really don't know yet," she said.
The key feature of the Fox Bluff Conservation Area is the frontage area by the Fox River, which has red oak and hickory trees that attract birds like the wood thrush and ovenbird, MCCD communications manager Wendy Kummerer said. The topography of the land also has steep ravines and man-made ponds. "We're looking forward to getting a greater area open to the public," Kummerer said.
A cost analysis of the master plan will be done as the planning moves forward, she said. "This is going to be the plan for when future resources become available. There is no lime limit on that, and the (MCCD) board will direct how fast this would be implemented," she said.
Camp Algonquin closed its doors in March, after the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago purchased the assets of the YMCA of McHenry County -- which leased the land from MCCD -- and decided it was not interested in running the camp. The last master plan for the Fox Bluff Conservation Area was done in 2003, the year before the district acquired the Camp Algonquin site.
The plans can be viewed on the McHenry County Conservation District's website. Comments should be send to Amy Peters at email@example.com.