Has forest district gotten off course?
Walking through the forest preserves on a sunny day, it is easy to understand why people have supported multiple referendums to purchase and preserve natural areas. But it is not enough to vote for preservation; you have to insist on it.
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In Kane County, a number of issues have raised the question of "mission drift" from the original intent of the Downstate Forest Preserve Act of 1913 to preserve natural forests in their natural state. Roughly a third of the forest preserve district's holdings do not meet the definition of natural lands. Instead, we have stadiums, golf courses, ice rinks, and athletic fields. Leases and IGA's with other agencies have turned over use of some "preserved" land for parks, Frisbee golf courses, community gardens, and a model airplane field, among others. These have little connection to the core mission of the district, which is to preserve the nature of Kane County.
The district also has been generous with taxpayer money. The recent donation of $2 million to Aurora for the construction of a pedestrian bridge in the new River Edge Park has received very little scrutiny or news coverage. How and why was money intended for preservation used for a development project not even on forest preserve district land? The meeting minutes where that agreement was originally approved in February 2010 show no discussion and no dissent. A $2 million expenditure merits a substantial discussion.
The Elgin Area League of Women Voters has posted the 2013 Kane County Forest Preserve District Study on their website at http://lwvelginarea.org/. If you support our forest preserves, read the report and then ask your elected representative why the KCFPD should be functioning as a park district or a land bank for other agencies. Then vote accordingly in the next election.