The last gap in the Des Plaines River Trail finally will be closed with the pending acquisition by the Lake County Forest Preserve District of a long-sought parcel near Lincolnshire.
After two decades of periodic overtures, property owner Gus Boznos has acquiesced and signed the papers that will provide the forest district a thin strip of land east of his Par-King Skill Golf course to complete a vision that began in 1961.
"I've mellowed," Boznos, 87, told the Daily Herald on Wednesday. "I think it's the right time to let them work that path through here."
Forest district officials in committees tonight and at the full board Tuesday are expected to heartily endorse the purchase of about 4.4 acres from Boznos for $50,000 an acre or $220,000, whichever is greater.
"I've been waiting to make this kind of transaction to keep everybody happy," Boznos said. The completed trail would be a "great connection" for the district and will keep trail users who avoid the gap away from busy Milwaukee Avenue, he said.
"I think he's at the point he wants to help out the forest preserves," Executive Director Ty Kovach said. "We talked about our long-range plan."
The land west of the Des Plaines River, east of Milwaukee Avenue and just south of Aptakisic Road will be an addition to the E.L. Ryerson Conservation Area.
The deal will allow the district to build an approximate 1,500-foot connection between the north and south legs of the path. It will complete a continuous trail stretching about 31 miles from the Van Patten Woods Forest Preserve near the Wisconsin border south to an overpass trail connection with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County near Wheeling.
"I'm absolutely thrilled beyond belief," said forest preserve Commissioner Carol Calabresa of Libertyville, who has served since 1986 and heads the land acquisition committee. "I just think it's a historic and momentous occasion."
Forest district President Ann Maine likened closing the gap to the famous meeting of the Union and Central Pacific railroads in 1869 in Utah to complete the transcontinental railroad.
"We can do the silver spike," she said. "We're going to go for engineering and construction as soon as possible."
The forest district's first acquisition, in 1961, became part of the Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway. It now includes land along more than 85 percent of the river in Lake County and links to other paths as the key in a regional network.
"A decades-long mission has been accomplished," Calabresa said.
Maine said the district keeps in touch with the owners of property it wants to acquire, which in this case has been more than 20 years.
"It's a lot about developing relationships," she said. Buying the property was a preferable approach, she added.
"We want this permanent. We don't want a lease coming up," she said.
Because a portion of the purchase bisects his property, Boznos will get an easement to access and maintain his properties and the district will install a fence and gates to protect them.
The district in 2007 completed the segment of the trail directly south of Boznos. Trail users coming from the north use a village-owned path adjacent to the Sedgebrook senior community to get to Milwaukee Avenue and skirt Par-King before reconnecting with the trail on a makeshift route.