The Lake County Forest Preserve District is primed to spend more than $3.1 million on its first significant land purchases in more than a year.
Forest board committees have recommended approval to buy three parcels in two preserves in the northern part of the county: two in Bluebird Meadow in Lake Villa Township and another at Pine Dunes in Newport Township.
The purchases, totaling about 98 acres, are considered strategic moves that will provide key connections to regional trail systems in the future and other benefits.
The first two are adjoining properties east of Route 59, between Petite Lake Road and Town Line Road, that would connect the two separate parcels that compromise the fragmented preserve purchased in late 2009.
"It was purchased with the thought we would connect it," said Mike Tully, the district's director of operations and public safety and interim director of land preservation and special projects. "This is one of the options we've been following and it finally paid off." The northern piece, known as the Schwanbeck, C & E property, is 32.5 acres and priced at $1.07 million or about $33,000 an acre. The southern parcel, known as the Schwanbeck K & J property, is about 29 acres and priced at $966,000 or about $31,000 per acre. Contracts for both mean include life estates for the respective Schwanbeck families.
Besides being a critical trail connection, the additions would help protect a wetland bird habitat.
"Eventually, the concept is to have a trail loop all around the Chain `O Lakes," Tully said.
The third proposed purchase is the 36-acre Wirtz (Stohlman) property on the north side of Route 173, west of Hunt Club Road, adjacent to Pine Dunes. The purchase price is about $1.3 million or about $31,000 an acre.
The property will provide an eventual link for the Millennium Trail through oak woodlands rather than past private drives on Hunt Club Road, Tully said.
The full forest board will consider the purchases at its regular meeting Tuesday.
Funds for the purchases would come from the $19.7 million remaining from a 2008 taxpayer-approved tax increase to raise money for land acquisition.
Tully said $33,000 an acre for the northern Schwanbeck property was a good price.
"A few years ago, that land would have went for considerably more. It has development potential," he said.
Another $8 million in bond funds for land acquisition also is available as the last of the voter-approved money.
"It's gone much farther than anticipated," Tully said. "We were planning for it (referendum) when everything was booming."