Land acquisitions expand forest preserves near Grayslake, Libertyville

  • This triangular property along Route 83 in Grayslake is being acquired Lake County Forest Preserve District as an addition to Rollins Savanna.

    This triangular property along Route 83 in Grayslake is being acquired Lake County Forest Preserve District as an addition to Rollins Savanna. Courtesy of Lake County Forest Preserve District

  • The Lake County Forest Preserve District is acquiring about 33 acres from the village of Libertyville to expand the Wilmot Woods forest preserve. The bulk of the purchase is on the north end and a small piece is south of Oak Spring Road.

    The Lake County Forest Preserve District is acquiring about 33 acres from the village of Libertyville to expand the Wilmot Woods forest preserve. The bulk of the purchase is on the north end and a small piece is south of Oak Spring Road. Courtesy of Lake County Forest Preserve District

 
 
Updated 4/7/2020 5:55 PM

Additions to two Lake County forest preserves were approved Tuesday, but they may be among the forest district's last for a while, as $185 million in voter-approved funding is nearly depleted.

The land buys authorized by Lake County Forest Preserve commissioners will add 2.7 acres to Rollins Savanna near Grayslake and about 33 acres to Wilmot Woods near Libertyville.

 

Both are considered strategic buys to enhance land restoration and management, rather than for public use.

At $248,998, the Rollins acquisition from the Epstein Trust is by far the most expensive. The triangular piece fronts busy Route 83 northwest of Washington Street.

Executive Director Ty Kovach said the price reflects the commercial zoning of the vacant parcel that has been on the forest preserve's radar for a long time.

Rollins Savanna is a flagship location for restoration and the acquisition will provide continuity for operations by squaring off the boundary and providing access to Route 83, he said.

"We're always looking for in-holdings of parcels like this," he added.

The Wilmot Woods purchase of two parcels from the village of Libertyville is much larger and, at $13,900, much less expensive. The larger of the two, which represents the bulk of the acquired property, is east of the Des Plaines River and south of the unincorporated Libertyville Estates subdivision.

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District 15 Commissioner Jennifer Clark of Libertyville suggested district staff approach the village after noticing there were some parcels along the Des Plaines River Trail that were not held by the forest preserve.

The main parcel is adjacent to the existing preserve and can be added to the overall restoration plan and make maintenance easier for the district and eliminate that cost to the village.

"It just seemed to make a lot of sense," she said.

"It's great for our land management and it will be a very good addition to Wilmot Woods. I'm very excited about this," she added.

Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler said the land was part of a long ago purchase that included property on the west side of the river.

"It's east of the Des Plaines River and surrounded by private property and forest preserve," he said. "It doesn't make sense for us to keep that just to say we have it."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The board Tuesday also agreed to buy a tax sale certificate for $2,091 that, if not redeemed by the property owner, would give the district the eventual opportunity to get the deed for an unimproved 8.5-acre parcel adjacent to an unidentified district property.

Once the sales are closed, there will be about $93,000 available for land acquisition from the $185 million in funding approved by voters in 2008, according to Ken Jones, the district's land preservation manager.

Kovach said $120,000 has been set aside in the district's long-range capital improvement plan for acquisition if a wish list property becomes available.

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