A proposed change in a long-standing agreement could allow bicyclists on the trails at the Grassy Lake Forest Preserve near Lake Barrington for the first time in 28 years.
Next month, the village and the Lake County Forest Preserve District plan to hash out whether and to what extent bicycling would be allowed on nearly six miles of gravel trails at Grassy Lake, which is in the far southwest part of the county.
"I think they're (village officials) getting a lot of pressure," said Randy Seebach, director of planning and land preservation for the forest district. "But they're concerned about what would happen if they started getting complaints the bicyclists weren't sharing the trail properly."
Lake Barrington has a say in what happens through a 1989 agreement that allowed the forest district to purchase property in the village and within its 1½-mile planning jurisdiction. The property became Grassy Lake and now spans 689 acres.
The agreement included restrictions on active recreational activities, facilities and equipment.
"They didn't want active recreation. They wanted a passive experience within their village," Seebach said.
The first change in that agreement allowed for sharing a parking lot. Trails were built in 2002 and a second change the following year allowed dogs on leashes.
That change also included a stipulation the village would pay costs related to improvements to the paths and changes in signage and brochures if it wanted to allow biking in the future.
Requests over the years to allow biking have been referred to Lake Barrington, Seebach said. Last month, the village submitted a formal request to allow bicycles on the preserve trails as a test that could be rescinded if complaints were received.
The village board on July 18 considered a resolution to make the change, but tabled the matter because of various questions, said village Trustee Karen Daulton Lange.
"I think we're all anxious to hear what they (forest district) have to say," she said, adding the parties have had a good relationship over the years.
During a discussion Monday, members of the forest preserve's planning committee agreed it should be all or nothing.
"I see the bikers up there already, so we coexist," said Commissioner Craig Taylor. "I'd like to see the whole thing opened (to biking) and opened immediately."
Committee Chair Carol Calabresa said there are "extremely dedicated" conservationists in the area.
"That's why there were restrictions put on it in the first place," she said.
Seebach said the district needs to determine whether to recommend biking everywhere in the preserve.
One such area to consider is a 94-acre addition to Grassy Lake north of Kelsey Road acquired in 2008 that offers a "quieter experience" with majestic views of the Fox River.
"We haven't decided yet for sure. We need to do that before we meet with the village," Seebach said.
This is an opportunity to examine all the restrictions of the original agreement with Lake Barrington to see what still applies, he added.