Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve Vision

View of Lake Michigan from Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve BluffI, too, have a dream. However, it’s probably more appropriate to call it a vision of what the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve should become. Having worked together with hundreds of others to reach this point where we might plan for the future of the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, we have an interest in seeing it developed for the remarkable and unique resource that it is.  Here is a first cut at what that plan might be.

I. Introduction

The Lake County Forest Preserves District is embarking on a plan for improvements and management of the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve. With the cooperation of multiple individuals, we have endeavored to draft a compelling vision for the preserve that optimizes its value to each of its stakeholders including its residential neighbors, nearby communities, adjacent land uses and land owners and all Lake County residents.

This vision incorporates Fort Sheridan’s history and its location on land having rare and unique attributes.

II. Vision

Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve should be managed to:Public Lakefront including Fort Sheridan, Openlands Lakeshore Preserve & McCormick Woods

  • Showcase its unique natural features including
    • Lakefront
    • Lakefront bluff
    • Ravines
    • Prairie grassland and savanna
    • Cultivate a vibrant & protected grassland bird habitat
    • Identify & protect environmentally sensitive areas
    • Manage land subject to ecological criteria
    • Provide an amenity to Lake County and the Town of Fort Sheridan
    • Respect and relate to its adjacent land uses
    • Contribute to the well-being of Lake Michigan

III. Criteria, Constraints & Opportunities

Decisions about Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve should be based on the following criteria, constraints and opportunities including:

  • Geography – physical features and relationship to land use at its boundariesPublic Lakefront
  • Flora & Fauna – existing and desired
  • Public Use – permitted, facilitated and excluded
  • Facilities

III. a. Geography

The Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve is part of a network of publicly accessible land. It must be managed consistent with the overall land use and environmental well-being of the entire area, not merely the land owned by the Forest Preserve. This requires communication and coordination with other entities.

Proximate land in conservation includes the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve on the south and Lake Forest’s McCormick Woods on the north. Together this public land makes up hundreds of acres of forest, savannah, prairie grassland and over 2 miles of Lake Michigan lakefront and bluff.

  • Prairie grassland, Oak Savannah, Ravines
  • Prime nesting for grassland birds
  • Non-motorized user access
  • Restoration to pre-settlement condition – probably Oak/Hickory Savanna
  • Ecologically correct biodiversity
  • Identification and protection of ecologically sensitive areas

III. a. 1. Lakefront

  • Manage lakefront access
  • Passive use – dog walking, hiking, sun bathing
  • Stormwater effluent/water quality management
  • Bluff preservation, erosion management and restoration

III. a. 2. Cemetery

  • Adjacent land use consistent with the dignity and quiet of the cemetery
  • Connection of cemetery (open gate) to adjacent forest preserve perhaps with trails and areas for repose

III. a. 3. Openlands/McCormick Woods/Town of Fort Sheridan

  • Consistent and seamless integration with adjacent land use and land development
  • Remove barbed wire fence on north side of Ft. Sheridan
  • Coordination with Lake Forest on trails and paths between Fort Sheridan and McCormick Woods
  • Parking & traffic management

III. a. 4. Historic Ft. Sheridan residential/Parade Grounds

  • Surrounded by residences of the historic Town of Fort Sheridan, the Parade Ground should be managed to complement the residential neighborhood.
  • Passive use
  • Planting to minimize lawn cutting/maintenance requirements
  • Water retention/stormwater managementGrassland birds and birds of the Oak savanna in Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve

IV. Flora & Fauna

  • Audit environmentally important areas (nesting areas, Red-headed woodpecker habitat, etc.)
  • Management to insure sustainability of important areas
  • Planting to encourage likely/desired animal species habitation

V. Public Use

  • Passive Recreation
  • Walking, dog walking, running, biking (dedicated areas only)
  • Designated picnic areas (near each parking lot)

VI. Facilities

  • Restrooms – off existing parking lots
  • Parking
    • Improve existing parking and optimize
    • Create second parking lot off Sheridan Road
    • Picnic Shelter(s)Photographer at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve

VII. Implementation

  • Transparent planning and implementation process and calendar
  • Creation of Citizen Advisory Committee (Friends of Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve)
  • Ongoing management plan
  • Allocation of budget

This vision is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Lake County Forest Preserve District. It is for discussion only.

Comments are encouraged.


3 thoughts on “Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve Vision

  1. I am for the preservation of land. And public spaces. But open lands does not manage so much in the interest of the environment as you think. They spray chemicals to kill invasive plants. The use chemical fertilizers. They drained two small ponds recently, killing all the tadpoles and such that we had been watching and various other aquatic life. I couldn’t believe all this but saw the spraying, fertilizing, and draining with my own eyes. Several of us, not just me. And all beside a water source and military housing area and public trail.


  2. Let’s hope that this dream does not become a traffic nightmare. The best way to control crowds is to control parking. Limited parking will limit the use and abuse of the habitat. If I had my way, they would do nothing other than perhaps some restoration of the grasslands and removal of the non-native plants. What they should NOT do is expand the parking and turn the beach into a swimming area. Once swimming is allowed, the lakefront gem will be turned into another Independence Grove.


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