Public access finally coming to Ethel's Woods near Antioch?
Plans for a parking lot, trails and other public amenities at Ethel's Woods Forest Preserve near Antioch are expected to proceed, 16 years after the Lake County Forest Preserve District purchased the picturesque property.
The forest board will vote Tuesday on a $137,682 contract with Civiltech Engineering for design, engineering and permitting for a 24-car parking lot, 1.3 miles of crushed stone trails and two scenic overlooks of the restored North Mill Creek valley.
The projects, expected to be built beginning in spring 2018, would be the first public access to the 467-acre site southeast of routes 45 and 173.
The district purchased the property from Abbott Laboratories in May 2001 for $13.2 million and named it for Ethel Untermyer, a Riverwoods mom who led a campaign in 1958 to found the forest preserve district.
A state grant the district received in 2002 requires a parking lot, trails and overlooks to be open to the public by the end of 2019.
When the preserve was purchased, the district said, it contained a woodland dominated by century-old trees representing the largest unprotected oak-hickory woodlands remaining in Lake County.
The woods are a backdrop to the Z-shaped, milelong Rasmussen Lake, created in 1957 when the property owner at the time dammed a creek. The setting is reminiscent of the north woods of Wisconsin, but few have seen it.
Officials say the 57-acre lake is of very low quality with severe bank erosion. Experts agreed the best course of action would be to "dewater" the lake, demolish the concrete dam that created it and restore the creek.
A $6.1 million project to drain the lake to allow the creek to flow as it did 60 years ago is in progress.
In a related matter, the district is expected to approve an agreement for access to 6.5 acres owned by Abbott where the stream enters the forest preserve, as part of the restoration projects. The company owns 508 acres in the area.
The general area also has been identified as the preferred route to extend a section of the Millennium Trail and eventually connect the McDonald Woods, Raven Glen and Ethel's Woods forest preserves. That would involve an underpass of Route 45 at Miller Road to enter Ethel's Woods.