Algonquin, Cary collaborating to transform mining areas into recreational spots

  • The land around Cary Lake at Rotary Park is one of three subareas targeted by Algonquin and Cary to transform mining spots into public recreational locations.

    The land around Cary Lake at Rotary Park is one of three subareas targeted by Algonquin and Cary to transform mining spots into public recreational locations. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Algonquin and Cary are collaborating on a plan to transform former mining spots -- including Cary Lake at Rotary Park -- into recreational areas for the public.

    Algonquin and Cary are collaborating on a plan to transform former mining spots -- including Cary Lake at Rotary Park -- into recreational areas for the public. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Cary Lake at Rotary Park is one of several mining areas Algonquin and Cary plan to transform into expansive recreational spots for the public.

    Cary Lake at Rotary Park is one of several mining areas Algonquin and Cary plan to transform into expansive recreational spots for the public. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted2/15/2021 5:30 AM

Generations of Algonquin and Cary residents looked on from afar as large tracts of local land were mined by companies digging the gravel and stone used to build up their communities through the decades.

With much of the mining ended or drawing to a close in the coming years, residents are now getting a close-up look at a transformed landscape.

 

Algonquin and Cary officials are collaborating with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to take hundreds of acres of mined-out land and turn them into recreational, residential and commercial spots. A draft of the Algonquin Cary Subarea Plan is completed, but organizers are hosting online forums this month to attract public feedback to tweak the plan as deemed necessary.

The plan cost $100,000 to put together, with an $80,000 grant coming from CMAP and $10,000 apiece contributed by Algonquin and Cary.

For those who grew up to the sound of grinding machinery and swirling dust in the air, it's a surreal feeling to see the land reclaimed.

"I've been in the area 45 years myself, and I can always remember some kind of mining operation taking place," said Brian Simmons, Cary's director of community development. "It's a long-term, slow process extracting the materials, but at the end of it you're left with these gorgeous amenities people can now utilize."

As part of an agreement between Cary and Meyer Material to secure mining rights, Meyer deeded Cary property northeast of the corner of Route 31 and Klasen Road.

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Cary took possession in September 2019 when mining concluded, but Meyer first added a three-mile gravel walking path around the 75-acre lake created by the digging, and also built a parking lot and restored the land to Cary's grading specifications.

The village soon after opened Cary Lake at Rotary Park there.

Currently featuring kayak launch points and fishing piers, the lake and the surrounding green space represent Subarea 1 of the Algonquin Cary Subarea Plan.

The preliminary plan for Subarea 1 eventually calls for a swimming beach, amphitheater and mountain bike trail.

Subarea 2 is the Algonquin area southeast of the corner of Route 31 and Klasen Road, and Subarea 3 is an Algonquin region west of Route 31 that borders Lake in the Hills.

While Subarea 1 is ready for upgrades now, Subarea 2 will be available when mining finishes in the next five years. Subarea 3 won't be ready for at least a decade, but the plan for the areas stretches to 2035 and includes recreational, commercial and residential elements while protecting natural resources and maintaining a buffer for existing neighborhoods.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The plan for Subarea 1 is more detailed than Subareas 2 and 3 because their availability is further down the road and the real estate market is still unknown.

But part of the overall goal is to connect downtown Algonquin north to Hoffman Park in Cary while restoring and developing the areas around Route 31.

All three subareas eventually will be connected, including Hoffman Park, Fox Bluff Conservation Area, the Fox River and Cary Lake at Rotary Park.

Because Lake in the Hills and Crystal Lake are also touched by the plan, the goals of four different communities had to be considered.

"Everyone has their own comprehensive or their master plan for their piece of the puzzle," said CMAP Senior Planner Kate Evasic. "What this plan is able to achieve is to look at those past goals and recommendations for the land in that area, and be able to coordinate it a little bit more."

The plan took two years to develop, with contributions coming from more than 800 community members.

It was pretty much finished a year ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced public input to be delayed until now.

Once public input is received and changes are made, the plan will be submitted to the respective village boards for final approval.

Then it's time to execute the vision.

"We're working together to provide the best to both communities," said Russ Farnum, Algonquin's community development director. "That's the spirit the plan was prepared in, and we want to go forward from here with a very strong partnership with our neighbors."

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