Youth sports could use part of new Kane forest preserve site

 
 
Updated 10/16/2014 4:39 PM
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Youth soccer, baseball and lacrosse players will have more room to play, under a plan to use part of the now publicly owned Gum farm near Elburn.

The Kane County Forest Preserve District closed Sept. 30 on the $626,650 purchase of almost 61 acres on Bateman Road, in Blackberry and Kaneville townships.

Now, Blackberry Township and forest district officials will work on an agreement for part of the site to be used for sports fields.

Township Supervisor Fred Dornback said the township would coordinate how the space is used, and will grade and seed the site. It would also provide rudimentary roads and parking areas, using road chips. Then it would be up to the youth sports groups to develop and maintain the fields, he said.

Dornback said there is money available in the township's existing budget to do the work.

He also said the site will have an area between the soccer and baseball fields where anybody can play pickup games of those sports, plus volleyball and bocce ball.

The farm is next to McNair field, a site the township rents for $1 a year on behalf of Elburn Youth Baseball. The lease for that land expired in 2013, and is being renegotiated.

The soccer organization had wanted to use the site, but the land owner refused. The township then began looking to buy 5 acres for the sports fields. Former township supervisor Dennis Ryan cited that as one of the reasons he quit after less than a year on the job in 2014. He said the whole affair amounted to the township forming a park district without voters' approval.

The Gum farm belonged to Donald Westlake. His late wife, Helen Gum, had grown up on the farm in the 1930s and 1940s, and the couple had bought out her siblings' interests in it over the years. The Westlakes, who lived in Wheaton, wanted the land preserved as open space, said Drew Frasz, the forest preserve commissioner who represents the area. Helen Gum Westlake died in 2012.

Frasz said the district was interested in buying the land for several years. He said it was able to do so once voters in 2011 authorized borrowing more money to buy land throughout the district.

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