Residents provide ideas for historic barn near Naperville
Mary Lou Wehrli has long called on the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County to find potential uses for a historic barn it owns near Naperville.
It's now clear Wehrli isn't alone.
More than 200 residents attended a June open house to tour the Greene Farm barn and share ideas for how the 14,000-square-foot structure could be used. On Monday night, 27 people participated in a follow-up meeting at the Woodridge Library.
"It shows the level of interest in the project," said Wehrli, who is a forest preserve commissioner from Naperville. "It shows the level of commitment people have to come to the open house and now another meeting."
The barn and a farmhouse have stood unused for decades at the intersection of Greene and Hobson roads.
Originally, it was understood that the Greene Farm would be used for cultural, educational, historical and recreation purposes. So far, though, it's only been an aesthetic feature for people using the trails at Greene Valley Forest Preserve.
Wehrli said residents who attended the June open house provided dozens of ideas for how the barn could be used, including events, music, parties and lease opportunities.
There also were suggestions for what the entire Greene Farm site should be. The list of ideas included a nature community center, an education center, a folk music center and a petting zoo.
When it came to concerns, Wehrli said some residents don't want the barn to be torn down.
The central portion of the farmhouse was built for William Briggs Greene in 1850, although the exact date of the barn's construction is unknown. Considered the largest barn in DuPage, the L-shaped structure included a corn crib, wagon shed, granary and animal pens.
The forest preserve acquired the farmhouse and barn in the 1970s.
In 2012, the district spent more than $1 million to stabilize the barn, including work to replace the main floor structure and roof.
Two years ago, the district spent roughly $26,400 to repair the barn and set aside up to $34,400 a year for maintenance.
But at the time, officials said it would cost millions to renovate the farmhouse and barn so they could be used by the public.
They also said it wouldn't be possible to raise that kind of money without help from an outside group.
Wehrli told residents attending Monday's meeting that will be up to them -- and anybody else who wants to get involved -- to try and make something happen.
Several of the residents expressed an interest in getting organized and developing a proposal for the forest preserve board to consider.
"There's a great deal of community interest out there to see something more than just a fixture on our landscape," said Peggy Frank of Naperville. "I think it's important that we do take the initiative to speak up, individually as well as collectively, to the forest preserve district itself."