With 28 projects planned for the site over the next several years, St. James Farm near Wheaton is on track to be transformed into a more visitor-friendly forest preserve.
Before that can happen, though, the DuPage Forest Preserve District needs to take the critical first step of getting clean, potable water into the section of the preserve near the northeast corner of Butterfield and Winfield roads.
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That will require help from Wheaton, and the city appears willing to oblige.
"We have big plans for this site," said Brock Lovelace, the district's project engineer, "but everything does kind of hinge on us getting municipal water and sewer out to the site. Right now, it's all well and septic, which is not sufficient for public use, for the type of occupancy we're going to be looking for in the future."
Lovelace and Michael Waldron, project engineer for Strand Associates, gave a presentation this week to the Wheaton City Council asking for use of the city's water for a fire suppression system and drinking fountains, bathrooms and sinks on the farm.
The proposed 2,400-foot water main would be constructed along Winfield Township's Hoy Avenue and connect to the city's water main on Wiesbrook Road.
The water needed for the preserve is divided into three categories: domestic, which would be water used by the public, staff members and volunteers; irrigation and equestrian use; and fire protection.
Waldron said the district hopes to receive water from Wheaton for all its domestic and fire protection needs and to continue using wells for its irrigation and equestrian needs.
The district acquired the 612-acre farm in 2000 and took it over in 2007, Lovelace said. In 2010, the forest preserve commission approved a $34 million master plan for the site, which includes trail improvements and providing public access to some buildings that date from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Those buildings currently don't meet codes to allow such access.
"If you let a lot of people into a building like this, you have to have sprinklers, you have to have fire hydrants and since we're on a well system it's just not sufficient flow to handle that," Lovelace said. "We're anticipating, as part of this master plan, to open up a lot of these buildings that will then be purposed for assembly-type events."
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency requires the city to own and operate the water main, but Waldron said the forest preserve would like to construct and maintain it.
Paul Redman, the city's director of engineering, said the city prefers to maintain the water line itself and have the forest preserve pay a water bill just like every other customer.
He said the proposed extension wouldn't result in any significant impact on the city's water system and the city has the manpower to own, operate and maintain the line.
An intergovernmental agreement with the terms and conditions of the water main extension is expected to be presented to the city council.