Fort Sheridan Saga -Heroic Highwood Mayor Charlie Pecaro

“I’m going to go with the 18-hole golf course. ..If I’m going to benefit my city, (the golf course) has to be a destination. Highwood is a destination city. That’s what I ran (for mayor) on 2 years ago. That we would make Highwood a destination. You’ve got to go with the high quality 18-hole golf course that will get semi-pro tournaments…” – Highwood Mayor Charlie Pecaro

Energetic and clear-eyed Mayor of Highwood Charlie Pecaro sees the Fort Sheridan golf course as another element of his grand plan to make Highwood a destination. He can’t be faulted for his intent or for his commitment to the residents who elected him. He is a hero.

Unlike Lake County Commissioner Anne Flanigan Bassi who has been plotting how best to package her position to please everyone while achieving nothing, Mayor Pecaro is not burdened by any past decisions to which he was never a party. He simply wants what is good for Highwood.  And I’d like him to have it.

Unfortunately, there are two essential flaws in Mayor Pecaro’s plan. The first is simply that there are others who have an interest in the same land that he does.  People who enjoy passive recreation and the unique quality of the Lake Michigan bluff together with runners, bikers, hikers and dog walkers have conspired to express how they feel entitled to at least a small parcel of this rare land. And by making this claim have effectively dumbed down the golf course into a designed-by-committee “hybrid” product which satisfies neither any defined market nor those who prefer the passive recreation of a real forest preserve.

The financial issue is the second problem with Mayor Pecaro’s vision. One can toy with each the variables that predicts the golf course performance, but in the end it all comes down to the significant and likely risk of pushing the costs onto the public.  And this is not just the cost of building and operating a golf course, this also includes the predicted cost in additional lost revenues, (estimated at $500,000 to $1,000,000 each year) to the existing money-losing neighboring municipal golf courses. A cost so severe in itself it has prompted the Lake Bluff Park District to predict a reduction of services to its residents and for the City of Lake Forest to suggest the Fort Sheridan golf course would “kill” their golf course operation.

I wish this were the go-go era for golf. And Fort Sheridan could be the Cog Hill of the north side. And parked cars would clog the streets of the Town of Fort Sheridan image: "Sorry Charlie"subdivision during corporate outings and tournaments. And people would retreat to Highwood for refreshments and spend lots of money. And Highland Park and Lake Forest would bust drunk drivers and make lots of money. Everyone would make money and be happy. But it’s not golf’s time anymore. It’s a different time and Mayor Pecaro’s fine vision for the Award-winning Championship Fort Sheridan International Open cannot be realized. Sorry, Charlie.

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