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posted: 10/3/2012 8:48 AM

Editorial: Preserving a treasure in Lake County

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Anyone who watched the Ryder Cup last weekend on television had to be struck by the beautiful overhead views of the suburban area surrounding the equally beautiful Medinah Country Club. The changing colors of the trees provided a unique view to the world that we may take for granted on a daily basis.

Each of the counties in the metropolitan area has forest preserve districts that have made it their mission to preserve open spaces amid the sprawl so that we may enjoy the wonders of nature in idyllic settings.

Those districts are entrusted to find, develop and maintain those areas. Certainly debates can be had as to how much should be spent and how much land is needed, but preserving open spaces is vitally important to our way of life.

With that in mind, we salute the Lake County Forest Preserve District for doing just that. The district will soon be the new owner of 150 acres that for the last 76 years has been home to a private campground -- the first to be licensed in Lake County. The owners -- it's been family-owned since before 1900 -- sought the sale, but declined to discuss it.

The district is buying the land for about $6.1 million. It also has purchased another 77 acres to the east for about $1.35 million, all of which will form a new forest preserve west of Route 59 and north of Beach Grove Road. It's the third campground acquired by the district in recent years.

We acknowledge, though, that change is hard, especially for those families who have spent a lifetime at "The Lake" as the Lake Marie Camp near Antioch is known.

"I used to save my vacation just to come out here to stay," Bob Rychlee told Daily Herald staff writer Mick Zawislak for a story Sunday, the last day the campground was open. Rychlee and his wife, Carol, have been coming to Lake Marie for 50 years.

"We've celebrated every wedding anniversary (at Lake Marie) since then," Carol Rychlee said. "I guess this is our last one."

While generations of the families who had trailers at the camp have fond memories of the past, in the future scores of people will be able to enjoy the rolling hills and scenic overlooks that are hallmarks of the area. And bird watchers might see the American white pelican with its 9-foot wingspan during spring and fall migrations. Yes, change is hard, but keeping the area as open space is the best decision.

"It had always been a priority acquisition," said Tom Hahn, the forest preserve district's executive director, adding that open space was better than a housing subdivision or a commercial development on the property.

"It could have been a lot of things, but now it will be open space," he said. "I understand the campers had an emotional attachment to the property. It's really quite lovely out there."

Lovely and now rightly preserved for future generations.

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