Lake board candidates differ on future of Discovery Museum site
The candidates for the 7th District seat on the Lake County Board have different visions for the Lake County Discovery Museum's former home near Wauconda.
After operating for decades inside former farm buildings at the Lakewood Forest Preserve, the Discovery Museum closed this summer. It will reopen late next year inside the Lake County Forest Preserve District's headquarters in Libertyville.
Steve Carlson, the Republican incumbent representing the Gurnee area's 7th District, would like to see the old site converted into a farm heritage center to honor Lake County's agricultural past.
His Democratic challenger, Mary Turley, suggested the district try to lease the buildings to unspecified tenants. If no one's interested in renting them, she said they should be torn down.
The county board and the forest district board consist of the same 21 members. Carlson and Turley are running for a 4-year term.
They were asked about the old Discovery Museum site and other issues in a joint Daily Herald interview.
Before the museum opened in 1976, the site had been known as Lakewood Farm. Founded in the 1930s, it featured cows, pigs, horses, orchards, gardens and grain production.
The land had been farmland since the 19th century. Six buildings stand there now.
Local preservationists have been pushing to save the buildings, one of which dates to the mid-19th century. The structures have been placed on a list of the state's most endangered historic places by Landmarks Illinois, a not-for-profit advocate for architectural and cultural landmarks.
Carlson, a county commissioner since 2002, acknowledged the forest district already has a model farm: the Bonner Heritage Farm near Lindenhurst. It has a barn and other attractions.
But Carlson isn't a fan.
"You've got plastic cows out there," he said.
Carlson believes the old museum buildings could be a "more authentic" farm experience for visitors.
"It could be a fine example of the farming history of Lake County," he said.
Carlson wants a complete analysis of the buildings to see if any can be repurposed.
"It might someday be the last example of a farm in Lake County, and I will fight to preserve it," he said.
Turley is making her first bid for elected office. She's not as passionate as Carlson about the old buildings.
Leasing the buildings could generate revenue for the district, she said. She didn't specify who the district should approach to rent the buildings.
If leasing the property isn't an option, Turley said officials should "just level it and keep it for the land's sake."
Turley suggested planting trees and shrubs and adding tables and benches to the grounds if the buildings are knocked down.
"It would blend in with the forest preserve," she said.