Lake County GOP candidates disagree on future forest preserve amenities

The Republican candidates for the 17th District seat on the Lake County Board disagree on whether more public amenities should be added to local forest preserves.

Linda Starkey and Eleanor Sweet McDonnell say they'd like trails or other features added to preserves, while incumbent Michael Danforth would rather spend money on restoration projects.

The county board doubles as the Lake County Forest Preserve District board.

Starkey, Sweet McDonnell and Danforth and will face off in the March 20 primary. The winner will face Democrat Maria Peterson of North Barrington in November's general election.

The GOP candidates talked about the forest preserves and other aspects of the job with the Daily Herald.

Starkey, a Wauconda trustee since 2011, noted that the 17th District is home to two forest preserves, Grassy Lake near Lake Barrington and Fox River near Port Barrington. Part of the Lakewood Forest Preserve is in the district, too, but most of it is in the 10th District.

Whereas the Fox River preserve offers boating, trails and picnic shelters, Grassy Lake only has a trail.

"Grassy Lake is most in need (of amenities), as right now it has the bare minimum," said Starkey, a business owner who previously served as mayor of North Barrington and as a trustee there.

Starkey suggested shelters and picnic tables would be nice additions at Grassy Lake. She said she also hears requests for more dog parks from people she encounters.

"Many communities are not within easy driving distance of a dog exercise area," she said.

Sweet McDonnell, who owns an executive search firm, said she supports the master development plan for Lakewood, which is updated annually. She'd also like a shelter built at Grassy Lake.

Sweet McDonnell also advocated for continuing habitat restoration efforts at all the county's preserves. She cited removing invasive plant species and reintroducing native trees and shrubs among projects she supports.

"This needs to be part of the legacy for our children and the future generations," she said.

Danforth, an attorney who was appointed to the board last year, said the forest board should focus on returning preserves "back to their original state," rather than building public amenities.

The district should "(be) spending the resources to return the forest preserves to the open and indigenous state they were once in," he said.

Danforth didn't recommend new amenities for any preserves.

The 17th District includes parts or all of Wauconda, Island Lake, Lake Barrington, Port Barrington, North Barrington, Barrington Hills, Tower Lakes, Fox River Grove and Hawthorn Woods.

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