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updated: 7/3/2014 9:31 AM

DuPage forest preserve reviewing $81 million in unfunded projects

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Roughly $81 million in master planning, $18 million in proposed trail work and $11 million in proposed repairs to structures in DuPage County forest preserves are unfunded, based on a report presented this week to forest preserve commissioners.

Director of Planning Andrea Hoyt said there are six major projects already approved by the commission that lack full funding, including:

• The Blackwell Campus Consolidation Plan, which includes new buildings and renovations near Warrenville. Approved in 2007 at an estimated cost of $13 million, available funding for the project falls $2.3 million short.

• The Dunham Master Plan, which includes work to preserve access, trails, a picnic area, interpretive areas, stream meandering and prairie and wetland restoration near Wayne. Approved in 2008 at an estimated cost of $13.8 million, available funding falls $10.4 million short.

• Renovation of Mayslake Hall into a cultural center and the Retreat Wing into offices, classroom and workshop space, a tea room and a gift shop in Oak Brook. Approved in 2005 at an estimated cost of $12.1 million, available funding falls $11.8 million short.

• Construction of wetlands and habitat improvements, trail connections and updates to golf course amenities at Oak Meadows Golf Course in Addison. Approved in 2013 at an estimated cost of $16 million, available funding falls $15 million short.

• The St. James Farm Master Plan, which includes restorations to parking, circulation, trails, picnic areas, building upgrades and equestrian facilities near Warrenville. Approved in 2010 at an estimated cost of $34.3 million, available funding falls $26.8 million.

• Improvement and expansion of existing building, expanded parking, reconfiguration and replacement of outdoor exhibits and wetland restoration at Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn. Approved in 2011 at an estimated cost of $16.9 million, available funding falls $12.6 million short.

In addition, there are several other projects the commission may want to consider in the near future, even though they aren't part of the master plan, Hoyt said. The majority of them are fully unfunded.

Those projects include a $1.5 million project to make Churchill Woods' McKee House accessible to the public; $3.5 million in structural improvements to Graue Mill and a possible building addition in Fullersburg Woods; a $4.5 million upgrade to the barn at Greene Farm for multipurpose public use; $1.5 million worth of districtwide historical building assessments; a $173,000 structural inventory and analysis of the district's 99 bridges; and about $16.4 million worth of trail development.

"With all these projects, grants would be available that we could apply for, but it's just to give the board a big picture of a lot of the outstanding projects that you have heard about or that you may know about as they grow into master plans," Hoyt said.

Forest preserve staff members said in the coming weeks the board will receive a recap of available funding along with more detailed information about ways to acquire money for the unfunded projects.

Forest preserve President D. "Dewey" Pierotti said he thinks the board should get public input on the projects before moving forward with the remaining work.

"Maybe this board should list the number of projects and put them in the form of an advisory referendum and let the taxpayers of DuPage County determine if they want to keep their tax bill where they're at or if they want tax relief," he said. "A lot of these projects, in my opinion, are really parochial and maybe some portions of the county want this and yet we're asking the entire county to pay for it."

Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli disagreed, saying she would like to see the board work together to understand the entire county's position.

"To suggest that we become parochial is way out of line," she said. "I think we all value the strengths that each district brings. We know that most of the land, over 50 percent, is in District 6, so if we're going to start dividing our county and become territorial we're not going to serve the overall good of (all) residents."

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