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Article updated: 10/2/2013 5:24 AM

Snowmobile request for Lake Marie Forest Preserve denied

By Mick Zawislak

How one of Lake County's newest forest preserves will be developed for public use is far from settled, but one activity already has been ruled out.

A request to establish a snowmobile trail at Lake Marie near Antioch has been nixed by forest district officials, who said the former campground purposely has been left undeveloped and allowing the use could establish a difficult-to-reverse precedent.

"If we said no to the people who wanted to just park and walk, how do we say yes to the snowmobilers?" said Bonnie Thomson Carter, who chairs the Lake County Forest Preserve District Board's planning and restoration committee.

The committee on Monday voted 4-2 not to pursue the proposal from the Northeastern Illinois Association of Snowmobile Clubs, which is the umbrella group for six local clubs in Lake County.

"We don't know what we want to do with the land. I felt this was not the time for us to open up that door," said Carter, of Ingleside.

However, not everyone agreed with that assessment. Committee member Nick Sauer, of Lake Barrington, said the issue wasn't a matter of planning for Lake Marie, and if the district had no liability and everything else was in order, the use should be allowed.

"I'd like to see our taxpayers access our property," he said.

Lake Marie Camp, west of Route 59 and north of Beach Grove Road, had been open since the 1930s. Because of the access to the Chain `O Lakes and 85 boat slips, the 150-acre property for years had been a priority acquisition for the district and it assumed ownership last fall.

Earlier this year, district officials decided against building a new entrance and temporary parking lot to allow public access because of maintenance and other potential costs. The area has remained undeveloped.

"We say no to the public, but then we say yes to a snowmobile club? It just didn't seem fair to the overall public," said committee member Carol Calabresa of Libertyville.

The snowmobile group has worked with the district since the early 1970s. It marks and maintains about 25 miles of trails at six preserves and on a portion of the Des Plaines River Trail. The proposal through the Lake Marie Forest Preserve would have established a connection between the Chain `O Lakes and other trails.

The group contended adjacent homeowners and those along connecting trails supported the measure.

"It would have been nice," said Donald Schaefer, past president of NIASC and regional director for the Illinois Association of Snowmobile Clubs.

"It seems like there are some policy directions they have to determine," Schaefer said.

Carter said some commissioners are "uncomfortable" adding more snowmobile trails to forest preserves.

"We're not so sure that snowmobile trails are even part of the forest preserve use," she said.

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