Lester: Last area toboggan run closes - for now

Long the source of winter thrills, exercise and, yes, the occasional concussion, the last of the area's toboggan runs has closed - at least temporarily.

Steitz's Resort in Antioch bills itself as having the "oldest registered toboggan slide in the state of Illinois," stemming back to 1940. In recent days, though, the resort has begun running a recorded voicemail message alerting customers that the toboggan slide - which shoots across the ice on Bluff Lake - is "not going to operate" this winter. Owner John Steitz gives few details in his message as to why, but points sledding enthusiasts to nearby Vail Resorts at Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin, which has a tubing park. He declined to comment when I called his cellphone the other day.

<h3 class="leadin">A look back

The whole thing prompted a little digging into just what happened to the seemingly death-defying toboggan runs so many readers and friends remember from childhood. In 2006, the Cook County Forest Preserve District officially closed its five toboggan runs at Deer Grove in Palatine, Bemis Woods in Western Springs, Dan Ryan Woods on the Southwest Side, Swallow Cliff in Palos Park (originally constructed to train Olympic ski jumpers) and Caldwell Woods on Chicago's Northwest Side, though many had been temporarily closed long before that. Commissioners said structural damage to the runs would have cost millions to repair.

Sunset Hill Park in Lombard also used to have a toboggan run through the 1980s. Reader Tom Galante of Palatine says he remembers that being a gym class unit at Peter Hoy Elementary School in the 1970s. "During the winter the gym teachers would send out permission slips: Parents had to sign to allow us to toboggan OR the other option was tubing down the side of the hill," he writes. "The teachers also asked for those with toboggans at home to bring them if they could. Of course, this was the era when big trampolines comprised another gym unit."

<h3 class="leadin">Teacher, coach, dies in accident

An alum of St. Paul Lutheran School in Mount Prospect, I know firsthand how close the network of Lutheran schoolteachers and parents in the area can be. So I was saddened to hear from a former classmate of the death of 29-year-old Katie Kloess, a beloved teacher and coach at Zion Lutheran School in Marengo, who was en route to a basketball game she was coaching last week. Marengo police say the crash between two cars and a semitrailer occurred shortly after 3 p.m., killing Kloess as well as a 35-year-old Genoa man.

Kloess, of Marengo, taught language arts and English to sixth- through eighth graders, and coached girls and boys volleyball, basketball, and track. Services were held at the church Wednesday.

<h3 class="leadin">Moving on

Congratulations to Kevin Artl, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's campaign manager, who's moved on quickly from his role with the Highland Park Republican to a new position as Chief of Staff with the Illinois Tollway. Artl, a father of three young children who lives in Aurora, says one of best parts of the new gig is the 15-minute commute to Tollway headquarters in Downers Grove.

<h3 class="leadin">'Still an effective voice'

Former state Rep. Ron Sandack

Former GOP state Rep. Ron Sandack of Downers Grove, who resigned this summer citing "cyber security issues" related to the creation of several fake social media accounts in his name, has re-emerged on Facebook and Twitter, tweeting in recent days about sports and University of Illinois football. Among his most salient tweets so far was one Tuesday referring to a New York Times opinion article. "When things don't go your way (as presumed) lament the death of America. #top-notch." Does this signal an attempt at a return to politics? Sandack tells me that he intends on "staying civically active and continuing to share my thoughts and suggested solutions for the issues facing our state. This is a critical time in government and I feel I can still be an effective voice and social media can be the beginning of that platform."

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College of DuPage Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi

$75K loan

Records show College of DuPage Chair Deanne Mazzochi of Elmhurst loaned her campaign $75,000 Dec. 16. Mazzochi was elected to a 6-year term in April 2015, but could use the funds to help other candidates. Three of the board's seven members are not running for re-election: including trustees Erin Birt and Dianne McGuire, as well as David Olsen, who was appointed to replace former board chair Katherine Hamilton. Olsen was named this summer to fill Sandack's post over the summer and won election to a two-year term in November.

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