The seemingly unending Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve land use dispute is now rolling into its second election season. In spite of the public’s general attention deficit and its desire to see complex issues created, negotiated and resolved in a 1 hour TV time slot (including commercials), the undying zombie that is the Fort Sheridan golf course limps forward. This time, however, political candidates are taking note.
The undead Fort Sheridan golf course’s cohorts, being most of the other municipal golf courses in Lake County struggle for life by attaching themselves to the public trough and sucking up general fund tax dollars. Highland Park is injecting over $300,000 of general fund tax dollars into its golf course holding while trying to pass the hot potato of ownership to the city’s Park District. Lake Forest is rearranging the deck chairs on its Titanic golf cash drain by hoping a private management company will supply their secret sauce to success.
Although golf rounds played have been in decline almost this entire century, most elected representatives have had their heads buried pretty deeply in their sandbox when it comes to addressing their golf problem. Fortunately things are changing. And it is about time.
For those who have followed this long-running serial comic series, Lake County Forest Board decided that it couldn’t afford to build a golf course but maybe they could slough the burden onto an unsuspecting private company. However, businesses being smarter than most government agencies, the widely advertised opportunity to build a golf course on Lake Michigan received exactly zero response.
Under this political cover, the flood gates of negative sentiment regarding golf at Fort Sheridan have begun to appear.
In the 15th District, Carol Calabresa, the heroic chairperson of the Fort Sheridan Golf Course Advisory Committee and incumbent commissioner has expressed her opposition to golf at Fort Sheridan. Her opponent, also opposed, wants to also sell off all the other county golf courses.
In the 13th District, Board candidate and former Illinois State Senator David Barkhausen has been one of the few early opponents of the golf at Fort Sheridan and has now made it part of his campaign.
The local general circulation media, a timid shadow of its former self, rarely addresses a true controversy. Yet the Lake County News-Sun published a thoughtful editorial acknowledging “second thoughts” on the golf course matter and saying, “Perhaps it is time to rethink the county’s commitment to the project…”
As of now, the Fort Sheridan golf course option is wounded but still moving. It would appear, however, that County Board candidates whose public position’s are now in the spotlight are lining up in recognition of the dismal fiscal realities of municipal golf. Media is trailing in agreement. And so is an economically sensitive electorate – at least for as long as they can pay attention to the zombies reaching for their wallets.