Fort Sheridan Golf Failure, Military Base Closings Reflect Changing Times

“This was the Big Idea…having a class 18 hole golf course on the lake. A homeowner told me, “Don’t show up at this meeting. They’re just going to make a fool of us. Another delay tactic. Another way to turn us down. But we came and with the willingness to compromise…” – Ralph Pfaff

For a small group of homeowners living in the subdivision next to the magnificent Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, the destruction of the old army golf course and the failure to build a shiny new one, let alone an 18-hole championship course, is a crushing, devastating, disappointment. And for a larger group of neighbors, the unsettled matter has fed their most negative opinions about government as well as unfounded concerns for the value of their home. These people are entitled to every angry sentiment they harbor.

But things change. All the time. And when things change it can get people very pissed off.  But, on this eve of 2011, it’s important to allow for how change is inevitable and often unsettling. It is opportunity and threat, win and loss, happy or sad. It is rarely indifferent.

If things hadn’t changed, this rare Lake Michigan frontage property, which had been a United States fortification for over 100 years, would still be a fort and this issue would be moot. But nobody or government or covenant or deed restriction ever said this land should be a fort in perpetuity.  Even though many thought that to be the case and had their livelihood tied to this expectation.

Highwood, whose existence was largely tied to the off-base needs of military personnel, has been scrambling to rediscover its raison d’etre. It now has an ambitious young mayor working diligently toward this goal. And while Mayor Charlie Pecaro works hard to make Highwood a destination and not just the off-base tavern, the pain of transition can be seen on this city’s streets.

Regrettably, for Fort Sheridan’s neighboring subdivision’s few golfers, golf courses are finding even less favor than military bases and are also being closed at a record rate. Ralph Pfaff, president of the homeowner’s association and an untiring spokesman, has been leading his neighbors, in good faith and optimism, down a road to hell that has been paved with good intentions. And now this road may have met its final obstacle, good intentions or not.

To Ralph’s credit, and we’re sure many of his golfing buddies don’t agree with him,  he is a reluctant supporter of  the uninspiring and most certain loser,“option 2B”. This golf-design-by-compromise is something considerably less than the “Big Idea” championship golf course many expected.

Now, more than likely, no golf course will be built. Almost certainly not by Lake County Forest Preserve. And highly unlikely by a private developer.  We understand why those who believed in the promise of a championship golf course are spitting nails. And we also understand the despair of many business people when the 1989 base closing were announced. It can be painful. But, in the end…

Both golf courses and military bases are closing

Things change.

All the time.

Happy New Year

Good luck to all of us in making the best decisions for Fort Sheridan in 2011.


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