From Lake County Commisioner Anne Flanigan Bassi’s email newsletter:
In July, the Forest Preserve Board of Commissioners approved appointments to a Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve Master Plan Advisory Committee which will meet for the purpose of reaching consensus on a conceptual master plan of preferred future public uses for the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve. The consensus will take the form of a recommended conceptual master plan, including estimates of probable construction costs and analysis of projected operating costs and revenues. The Advisory Committee will approve a plan and send it to relevant Standing Committees and the Forest Preserve Board of Commissioners for consideration.
The initial Advisory Committee meeting, originally scheduled for September, was postponed because one of the participant entities had a conflict that was unknown to them at the time the original date was set. Working with the schedules of all the participants has been difficult, and the first meeting will now take place on December 2, 6:30 p.m., at Oak Terrace School, 240 Prairie Avenue, Highwood.
All meetings will be open to members of the public and held in the evening. Written public comments will be welcomed at the meetings and made part of the official record for consideration during the planning process. Additionally, the committee will conduct public open houses at appropriate points during the planning process to present options under consideration, answer questions and provide an opportunity for members of the public to make official written or video recorded comments. Committee meeting notices, agendas, approved minutes and supplementary materials will be made available, and additional official public comments solicited online.
For a “virtual tour” of the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve improvements to date, visit the link below where you can view images, learn about the preserve’s trails, educational exhibits, cemetery, lakeshore, natural resources and ongoing restoration efforts.
If you haven’t yet had a chance to visit the Fort Sheridan Preserve and want to take a brisk fall walk, the link below is a Trail Map Brochure. Winter/summer/spring/fall – it’s a breathtakingly beautiful walk along the restored Hutchinson Ravine with views of, and access to, Lake Michigan shoreline.
Many of you have contacted me through the years about your interest in this property, and I hope you will continue to provide your input. Since the cities of Highland Park, Highwood and Lake Forest will be part of the planning process, please also share your thoughts with your city officials as the process continues.
A brief history and summary of current issues:
The 259-acre Fort Sheridan Preserve, which included Lake Michigan beachfront, bluffs, ravines, open space and golf course, was transferred to the Forest Preserves District by the U.S. Department of the Army in three increments between 1999 and 2001, and the District received the final deed in 2002.
The property was accepted by the Forest Preserve District on behalf of Lake County residents, and the transfer was subject to a deed restriction requiring a golf course on the property.
The Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve property spans the municipal borders of Highland Park, Highwood and Lake Forest.
Highwood and Highland Park residents surround the preserve and many of these residents purchased their property believing there would be a golf course on the property.
Highwood, Highland Park and Lake Forest were members of the original Joint Planning Commission (JPC) for re-development of the Fort Sheridan Army Base; the City Councils of Highland Park and Highwood support a golf course on the Forest Preserve property, while the Lake Forest City Council does not support a golf course.
Current estimates for the original plan are $17 – $25 million without a banquet facility. http://www.lcfpd.org/docs/MTI_Cost_Estimate.pdf
While I have not seen cost estimates for a value-engineered course, I understand that some of the costs – like road construction, cart paths, parking lots, maintenance facility, equipment, debt service and maintenance costs during the year-plus grow-in period – may not change significantly regardless of the type of course constructed.
Our golf consultant has presented reports over the course of two meetings this year on changes in the golf industry, and will make presentations and be available during the Planning Committee process. The Forest Preserve’s own courses have reflected the industry trends of multi-year declining golf course revenues. Our consultants’ reports can be accessed on our website at http://www.lcfpd.org/docs/ERA_Fort_Sheridan.pdf
In the struggling golf market, some of the surrounding municipalities and park districts operating golf courses have expressed their concern about the impact of a golf course at Fort Sheridan on their course revenues.
Fort Sheridan is an environmental, educational, recreational and historical treasure the residents of Lake County were fortunate to receive. While the process of moving forward with this project is longer than any of us imagined, the planning committee is a positive step. I feel confident that working together we can use our creativity to agree on a plan that will be an asset for the residents abutting the property and all Lake County residents.
A PowerPoint presentation reviewing the history of the 259-acre Fort Sheridan property can be accessed on the Forest Preserve’s website at http://www.lcfpd.org/docs/Fort-Sheridan-COW-Meeting-Slides.pdf