After 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.
If 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.