Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve Fate in Lake County Board’s Hands

Fort Sheridan Bluff & PrairieAfter the big rains last weekend, I walked the Fort Sheridan property. I came up from the beach over an area I call the prairie bluff.  From this access there are no signs that tell me that walking here is prohibited. I enjoyed seeing  3 Eastern Meadowlark soaring then loitering at the top of the bluff just below where the plastic fencing was doing a futile job of controlling the erosion of the top soil from scores of acres of plowed up prairie.

Walking north I came upon Patton Lake, reduced to a stormwater collection basin muddy with the erosive runoff from the bare and unprotected fields. A lone Lesser Scaup (probably) scooted away from the bank and eventually took off over the ice floes covering the first 200 yards of shoreline.

Lone Scaup in Patton LakeIf there is a heaven on earth, this is one of those places.  Not more than 3 minutes by car to a McDonalds for an Egg McMuffin, coffee and a washroom, I’m standing on this bluff with the wildlife before me, the great Lake Michigan behind me and the wet air surrounding me, 11 sandhill cranes sailed north overhead taking their cue from the majestic bluff separating land from water.

On Tuesday, March 18 (corrected) 17, 2009  the Lake County Board of Commissioners will continue their quest for a resolution to their dilemma.  Do they pursue an almost guaranteed money sinkhole by building a golf course? Or do they attempt to re-negotiate a 15 year old poorly conceived agreement that has condemned them to operating the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve Golf Course?

Frankly, the choices stink. Expedient and politic decisions made years ago are creating political eruptions  now like little time bombs set by merry pranksters. Except this is not funny.  Neighbors are bitching at neighbors. About golf. And birds. And contaminated soil. Public access. Conservation. Honor. Deeds. Lawsuits. Promises. It is a mess.

In my mind, the economic issue trumps all others. I don’t want to pay for my neighbors to play golf. And I suspect most people in Lake County would agree with that. And, if the Lake County Commissioners are acting in the interest of their constituents, they will put the golf course behind them as inexpensively as possible.

But there is more than the economic issue. Standing on the bluff last Sunday, a couple weeks before we shut the door on winter, I came to really appreciate how special this area is. And, given the trauma of war training and Nike missles this land has sustained, here was this opportunity to return it to some semblance of peaceful native prairie lakefront bluff.  And, if properly managed,  maybe it would attract just a tiny minority of its former native inhabitants.

Or it might become a golf course. Busy for 20 weeks with those who can pony up the $100+/round for green fees. But otherwise with limited access to the rest of us

I walked back to my car.  From out on the barren acres I think I heard a Kildeer peep.

Patton Lake overlooking Lake Michigan


7 thoughts on “Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve Fate in Lake County Board’s Hands

  1. Thanks for your comment, Mark. Because there is a lot of emotion associated with this matter it seems important to stay very close to the facts, which are not consistent with your comments.

    The former Fort Sheridan army base was crossed with 7 ravines that the army elected to fill with waste from its operations over the years. The bluff I described and which is the subject of golf course discussion is bounded by Hutchinson Ravine, Janes Ravine and McCormick Ravine.

    While there is no toxic dump underlying this particular piece of property, I would agree that there is little that is pristine about this land. However, we have the chance now to begin a process of remediation.

    The ravines that have attracted considerable concern is the Wells Ravine, now diminished to being called simply Landfill #7. The costs for remediation are not inconsequential and, I wonder if it can ever be made “safe.” However, these costs are in the $60 million range and not the $50 BILLION you assert and is largely funded by the Federal government and not the forest preserve district which would never have assumed that level of liability.

    You don’t quote any sources to substantiate your erroneous claims. My information comes from the following. If you have information which challenges the following information, we’d love to know your sources:

    Walsh, Don and Liberman, Polina, Fort Sheridan Landfills 6 & 7 Closure. Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Northwestern University on behalf of Chicago Environmental Law Clinic August 2003 pg 26. Northwestern University study.

    USACE, Decision Document (DD) for Interim Source Control Action for Landfills 6 and 7 at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. April 22, 1997.

    Defense Environmental Restoration Program Annual Report To Congress FY2006, page 84.

    Illinois Department of Transportation; Division of Water Resources. Harmony with the Lake: Guide to Bluff Stabilization, Lake Michigan, IL. The Illinois Coastal Zone Management Program.


  2. You know where you were standing on that bluff. Is a toxic landfill. The Navy won’t clean it up and it will cost the forest preserve district 50 billion dollars. I love fort sheridan too. But I have realized after research that almost everywhere you stand has some toxic sludge or sewage underneath it.


  3. “Your post says that the rounds of golf here cost $100 ? Where did you get that information.”

    This information comes from the Lake County Forest Preserves. You can find this documentation and almost all other important background information at

    All statements within this post are factual and based on referenceable documents most of which can be easily and appreciatively found on the Lake County Forest Preserve District’s website or obtained from the County by request through the Freedom of Information Act.


  4. And you assume falsely that the other 90 percent of the population likes to go on nature walks.

    Your post says that the rounds of golf here cost $100 ? Where did you get that information.

    Before the LCFPD destroyed this golf course in 2004 the mid-week afternoon round cost $19. It was one of the lowest cost most accessible public courses in the region.

    Try to stick to facts please with your arguments. If you don’t know the facts, I urge you not to just make stuff up.


  5. Great post. I was struck by the statistic that the board shared on January. Only 10% of the population golfs and rounds of golf continue to decline. Let’s leave this gem of a nature preserve for the 90% in Lake County who won’t be on the links.

    I challenge the Board Members to think of their legacy. This could be one of the best nature preserves in Illinois – or it could be a golf course for a shrinking group of golfers.

    While they’re making up their mind, I hope they’ll mow some walking paths along the bluffs and over Janes Ravine so more county residents will get to know the place and understand what a potential gem is theirs.


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