The Cook County Forest Preserve District hosted its first public meeting Wednesday night to get input on what should be done with Horizon Farms, the nearly 400-acre Barrington Hills equestrian estate it recently purchased.
Forest preserve staff members gave little indication of what they plan to do with their newest acquisition, which the district bought for $14.5 million, preferring to ask the residents what they would like to see.
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"We want to make sure we are giving you the facts and that you are hearing it straight from the horse's mouth, no pun intended," General Superintendent Arnold Randall said, which drew a chuckle from the more than 150 Barrington-area residents who filled the Countryside Elementary School auditorium.
Randall, the forest preserve's top administrator, fielded questions from the audience, some of which had to do with horses and if the forest preserve would consider allowing the public to board horses at the estate. Horizon Farms has about 20 horse paddocks, several barns, a large show barn and a racetrack.
Randall said the forest preserve wouldn't be able to give any detailed answers about how the existing facilities on the property would be used until they underwent a thorough safety assessment, which could take the rest of the summer.
Elena Mularski, who lives across the street from Horizon Farms on Old Sutton Road, said she thinks that it is wonderful the forest preserve district will own the property and that it was seeking feedback.
"My concern is the visual part of it," Mularski said. "Right now we look at the beautiful landscape of a horse farm, and I'm just hoping that they aren't going to be putting up structures or roads or things."
After the q-and-a session was over, Barrington Hills Village President Martin McLaughlin thanked the forest preserve staff for seeking residents' feedback.
"I'm thankful that they're willing to respect the values and traditions of our community," McLaughlin said, calling Horizon Farms one of the most iconic places in Barrington Hills.
Randall said there would be another public meeting in the fall, after the assessment was complete but did not specify a date. Forest preserve staff members sought out the email addresses of all who attended so they could be kept up to date on the process.