Forest preserve planning more improvements to St. James Farm

  • A renovation and expansion of the indoor horse arena at St. James Farm Forest Preserve is expected to be completed next month, officials said. It's among several projects that soon will be done at the property near Warrenville.

    A renovation and expansion of the indoor horse arena at St. James Farm Forest Preserve is expected to be completed next month, officials said. It's among several projects that soon will be done at the property near Warrenville. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 9/18/2018 3:36 PM

As work is wrapping up on several projects at St. James Farm Forest Preserve, officials are planning still more upgrades to the property near Warrenville.

DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioners on Tuesday agreed to seek a state grant to help pay for the restoration of the picnic pavilion at St. James. If the application is approved, the grant money from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources would pay for half the project, which is estimated to cost $300,000.

 

Officials said the 150-person shelter is frequently reserved by residents and supports programs at St. James. But the pavilion has "deterioration that needs to be addressed sooner than later," according to a district memorandum.

The project would extend the useful life of the pavilion. In addition to the repairs, paving and planting changes would be made "to improve and enhance the user experience," officials said.

Kevin Horsfall, district manager of planning, said construction is expected in 2020.

Meanwhile, several other projects at St. James will be done soon, including a new trail that's expected to open by year's end.

A renovation and expansion of the farm's indoor riding arena is expected to be completed next month.

The project included upgrading the roughly 13,000-square-foot arena's HVAC, electrical and lighting systems. An addition also was built that includes a multipurpose room and public washrooms.

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Officials say the plan is to use the arena for a variety of programs, such as day camps, trade shows and wedding receptions.

"It will provide us more opportunities for programming and operations that we currently don't have," Horsfall said.

To make it possible for the arena and other buildings to be opened to the public, the district recently completed a $2.9 million project to connect the farm to Wheaton's water distribution system and Wheaton Sanitary District's sanitary collection system.

The forest preserve district bought St. James Farm from philanthropist and conservationist Brooks McCormick in 2000 for $43 million. It took possession of the more than 600 acres along Winfield Road after McCormick's death in 2006.

While the property is open to forest preserve users, residents aren't allowed inside its buildings.

But now that Lake Michigan water is flowing to the farm, life-safety improvements can be made to the buildings so they can become available to the public.

Horsfall said the upgrades have been possible because of the district's ability to pursue grant money and a $5 million endowment the district received from McCormick when he died.

"It has all come together to allow this to happen," he said.

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