$1.87 million in upgrades planned for Fort Sheridan preserve

Significant public access improvements scheduled to begin soon at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve bordering Lake Michigan will nearly complete years of big-picture planning for the former Army base.

However, the work beginning May 30 will require portions of the preserve to be closed two years.

"We're starting an aggressive effort" to notify the public, said Randy Seebach, director of planning and land preservation for the Lake County Forest Preserves.

"It's important people realize we'll be closed for an extended period."

The clock starts today, after the expected approval by the forest preserve board of a $1.87 million contract with V3 Construction Group of Woodridge. The work includes: • Widening the main entrance at Gilgare Lane to two lanes leading to a new 45-vehicle parking lot with five accessible spaces and an evaporator toilet.

• Providing a new paved trailhead and evaporator toilet for the north entrance at Vattman Road.

• Rebuilding 1.6 miles of mowed turf trails with improved drainage and two boardwalks.

• Paving a wood chip section and adding two boardwalks to make the Hutchinson Trail paved and accessible from Sheridan Road to a new lake overlook.

A master plan for the preserve was approved in November 2015 after a three-year process involving extensive public input.

Forest preserve Commissioner Paul Frank last week hosted a project briefing for Highland Park officials including discussion of how best to communicate with the public.

During construction, all portions of the preserve north of Fort Sheridan's historic district will be closed to public access, he informed constituents, but the inconvenience will be worth having accessible facilities and access to the lakefront.

Former Commissioner Steve Mandel, who served from 2012 to 2016 but did not seek re-election to the seat occupied by Frank, said Lake Michigan is one of the county's greatest assets.

"I'm very excited to see this thing finally coming up," he said. "Anything we can do to get (the public) up close and personal to Lake Michigan is important to me."

The base closed in 1993 and the land transferred to the district in phases between 1999 and 2001. At one time the district planned to build a new golf course to replace the original 9-hole course at the site, but the idea was dropped due to high cost and a decline in golf play.

The parade grounds and surrounding sidewalk will remain open during the work. Planning to complete a trail around the parade grounds and replace 20 percent of the turf with native plantings continues, Seebach said.

Fort Sheridan master plan won't include golf course

Master plan finally in place for Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve

  Lake County Forest Preserve District is set to proceed with nearly $1.9 million in improvements at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve along Lake Michigan. Paul Valade/
  An oversized red-tailed hawk's nest exhibit at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve is in one of the sections that will be closed for improvements until summer 2018. Paul Valade/
  This section of trail in the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve will be improved to include a new boardwalk. Paul Valade/
  A Coastal Artillery exhibit is closed until summer 2018 for improvements at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve. Paul Valade/
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