Lake County Board candidates offer ideas for forest preserve
Republican incumbent Craig Taylor of Lake Zurich and Democratic challenger Deborah Barry of Deer Park are not running against each other only to represent Lake County's 19th District on the county board.
The winner of the Nov. 6 contest also will represent the district on the Lake County Forest Preserve Board. The candidates, however, say the people who serve on the two boards don't necessarily need to be the same.
"I think at some point they should be separated," Taylor said. "I don't know that now is the right time, but it's something that's definitely worth exploring."
Barry said while the current situation is permissible given financial circumstances, it's time to take a close look at separating the two.
"The fact that in this case every county board member is also a member of the forest preserve district, and given the budgets that they handle, I just think it's too much money and power in one set of hands," she said.
Barry would prefer to see biologists, botanists, landscape designers and specialists in stormwater management and species management serving on the forest preserve board.
"Because I might be a policy wonk at the county level does not make me wise about open space," she added.
As for improvements to the forest preserve district, Barry and Taylor have varying ideas.
Taylor said he would like to continue acquiring land to expand the forest preserve, particularly in the 19th District. He said the board has been moving forward with obtaining land during his time in office, especially after voters approved a measure a few years ago that provided more than $184 million for acquiring property.
"A lot of these properties that we're amassing now we looked at prior and they were extremely pricey and they really weren't available," he said. "But now the price has come down substantially and the properties are coming on the market, the properties owners want to sell and we've got the money."
During Taylor's time on the board, land has been acquired off Route 22, near Heron Creek, and restoration work has begun on Cuba Marsh. He hopes the district adds properties along the Fox River, near Grassy Lake Preserve and Fox River Preserve.
Barry said she would like to see better use of open space.
"I think there must be attractions and more classes and perhaps more rentals because we have to find more sources of revenue," she said, adding that "low-impact attractions" may interest corporate sponsors.
One idea Barry has is creating a GPS-based application that visitors could use to learn more about the plants and animals surrounding them in a forest preserve. She would also like to see more dog parks.
"They're a tremendous attraction to nearby retail, shopping," she said.
Both candidates oppose using eminent domain to acquire land needed to complete the Des Plaines River Trail. Barry said that eminent domain "should be exercised only in situations of essential public safety and transport" and that the need is not "mission critical."
Taylor said while it is unfortunate the property owner is unwilling to cooperate with the forest preserve, he thinks a deal will be struck in the near future.
The candidates also agreed they would like to see scenic overlooks of Lake Michigan retained at the Fort Sheridan golf course property, but they want neighbors to be consulted before any decisions are made on what to do with the land.
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