Big deal for open space: Sale will preserve, restore Duchossois farm near Barrington Hills

In a watershed moment for suburban land preservation efforts, a Barrington-based conservation group announced Monday it is buying the Richard Duchossois family's 246.5-acre Hill 'N Dale Farm South, long considered one of the most important and desirable tracts of open space in northern Illinois.

Citizens for Conservation's acquisition of the land near Barrington Hills will ensure it remains protected open space and provide a critical wildlife corridor with the 4,000-acre Spring Creek Forest Preserve next door.

A planned restoration of the site, to be called Hill 'N Dale Preserve, will provide important habitat for native plant and aquatic communities, grassland birds like the bobolink, bittern and Henslow's sparrows, and endangered species such as monarch butterflies and rusty-patched bumblebees, the conservation group's leaders say.

"We're going to build a beautiful complex web of Illinois' native life here at this preserve," said Jim Vanderpoel, a member of the Citizens for Conservation board.

The site is now being evaluated to create a multiyear ecological management plan for the property, the organization said. Public access to the preserve will be provided through activities sponsored by the group, which is also open to the possibility of horse trails.

The organization also has pledged to maintain the iconic white exterior fences that surrounds the land.

All told, the acquisition and restoration carries an estimated $10 million price tag, according to the organization. Citizens for Conservation received nearly half that through a $4.9 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, the largest such grant awarded for a single-parcel purchase.

Citizens for Conservation board President Kathleen Leitner said other fundraising efforts have brought the total available to $9.5 million.

"This property's high conservation value, coupled with CFC's strong history of delivering quality restoration results, will have far-reaching impacts for the entire Barrington-area community, as well as the entire northern Illinois region," Leitner said.

Located within the Spring Creek watershed corridor, the property is surrounded by Spring Creek Road on the north, Ridge Road on the east, Lake-Cook Road on the south and Meadow Hill Road on the west.

The Duchossois family worked closely with Citizens for Conservation for the past year to arrange the sale.

"We know how important this land is to the community, and it was absolutely critical for our entire family to make certain that the property would be protected and maintained as open space," said Kim Duchossois, daughter of the late Arlington Park Chairman Richard Duchossois.

Key to the family's decision to sell, she said, was Citizens for Conservation's long history in the area and its promise to restore the site to its natural splendor.

"I'm also very pleased that the Barrington-area members of our family will be contributing a significant portion of their proceeds of the sale back to the CFC campaign to protect this land in perpetuity," she said.

Although not within Barrington Hills' corporate limits, the property is surrounded by the village. Village President Brian Cecola was enthused by Citizens for Conservation's acquisition of the land.

"Citizens for Conservation's dedication to land preservation aligns with our village's objectives of preserving open spaces and maintaining our 5-acre zoning. It's a win-win for everyone involved," he said.

Among the new preserve's features will be will be 4,060 linear feet of the high-quality Spring Creek, a tributary of the Fox River. Preservation of the land has been identified as a key element of the Barrington Greenway Initiative, the Spring Creek Watershed-based plan, and the McHenry and Lake County Green Infrastructure Plans.

"It's all part of an effort to try to connect the landscape to other quality landscapes, but also providing opportunities for nature and people to enjoy the background," said Jim Anderson, a Citizens for Conservation volunteer and restoration adviser.

The purchase will be the group's 14th and largest preserve. The 50-year-old nonprofit organization will have 777 acres in Lake, Cook and McHenry counties under its care.

"We're restoring this for nature and all that call Barrington home," Citizens for Conservation Restoration Manager Kevin Scheiwiller said.

Richard Duchossois at his Hill 'N Dale farm near Barrington Hills in 1983. The longtime Arlington Park chairman died in January at 100 years old. Daily Herald File Photo, 1983
The high-quality Spring Creek is among the ecological highlights of the 246.5-acre site near Barrington Hills that soon will be known as Hill 'N Dale Preserve. Courtesy of Indoor Drone Tours
Kim Duchossois of The Duchossois Group, left, and Kathleen Leitner of Citizens for Conservation celebrate the organization's acquisition of Hill 'N Dale Farm South. Courtesy of Bob Lee
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