What do you want at Fort Sheridan? Officials want to know

Posted5/11/2012 10:40 AM
  • A non-fuctioning piece of artillery. which reflects Fort Sheridan's military history, is among the exhibits at the forest preserve near Highland Park.

    A non-fuctioning piece of artillery. which reflects Fort Sheridan's military history, is among the exhibits at the forest preserve near Highland Park. Courtesy of Lake County Forest Preserve District

  • A trail at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve.

    A trail at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve. Courtesy of Lake County Forest Preserves

With plans for a golf course now out of play, Lake County Forest Preserve District officials want to hear from you about what types of trails or other amenities should be added to the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve.

A public open house is planned for Tuesday, June 12, at the Midwest Young Artists Center, 878 Lyster Road, Highwood. That's on the historic Fort Sheridan property, which overlooks Lake Michigan.

Between 4 and 8 p.m. that day, people can view maps and information about the roughly 250-acre preserve and share any opinions about possible improvements for the site, including recreational amenities and habitat restoration projects.

"We are committed to still spending money over there," forest district board President Ann Maine said.

District employees will be on hand to answer questions. Tours of the preserve will be offered if the weather permits.

Maine is hoping for a large turnout. She and other officials want to hear what people envision at the preserve.

"If not a golf course, then what?" said Maine, a Lincolnshire Republican. "What are the things that interest people?"

Earlier this year, the forest preserve board officially abandoned a decade-old plan to build a new golf course at Fort Sheridan.

An 18-hole course operated on the land when the district acquired the site from the Army in stages starting in the 1990s, and a clause in the contract requires a layout exist in perpetuity.

The course was torn up in 2003 so a new one could be built. But the effort was halted after cost projections came in much higher than originally estimated. The golf industry's continued decline didn't help matters.

In March, the forest board voted to ask the Army to remove the golf clause from the contract. The Army has not yet responded.

Some residents of the adjoining Town of Fort Sheridan development demanded the district stick to the original plan and build a golf course. Others have said they'd prefer a more natural setting at the preserve.

Chuck Bley, president of the local homeowners association, could not be reached for comment.

Maine knows many of those homeowners are angry about the board's decision to take a golf course off the table. She insists officials are open to hearing alternative ideas.

"That's part of what this is," she said of the open house. "It's an active group out there. We would expect to hear from them."

A timetable for moving forward hasn't been created yet. Maine doesn't want to wait until the Army responds to the district's request before developing new plans.

"People out there have waited a long time," she said. "We've got to move along here. We have to resolve things."

While the golf plan was in limbo, district officials went ahead with other improvements at Fort Sheridan. They included creation of trails and educational attractions like a fabricated hawk's nest large enough for people to walk through.

They've also improved the natural scenery of the site, including a restoration of Fort Sheridan's scenic ravines.

Maine wants future projects to blend nicely with the homes and other elements of Fort Sheridan. New recreational opportunities beyond the existing trails could work, she said.

"I think we're open (to ideas)," Maine said.

Anyone who can't attend the open house can submit ideas electronically by sending an email to fort@lcfpd.org.

For more information about Fort Sheridan and the planning effort, visit lcfpd.org.

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