Reduced parking, inconvenient public access and a look-the-other-way attitude toward people with mobility problems are the cornerstones of the proposed Fort Sheridan Master Plan being entertained by the Planning and Restoration committee of the Lake County Forest Preserves. The goal of the plan is, quite simply, to keep the public out of the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve.
Drifting along with plan concepts not based on any publicly adopted vision, the County has corralled the Master Plan for Fort Sheridan into two poor options. To arrive at this point the county has eschewed any public input into the plan process. Those who have sought to speak to the plans at committee meetings have been shoehorned into 3 minute speaking slots during a legally mandated public comment period. “We’re sorry; your time is up no matter what you have to contribute.”
It is noteworthy to observe that members of the Planning & Restoration committee, many of whom have never been to the Fort Sheridan Preserve, have unlimited time to weigh in on the best plan for this unseen property. Those who know can’t speak. Those who speak don’t know. It is unseemly. But I digress.
Initially introduced in November 2014 after 2 1/2 years of inactivity, the first Master Plan drafts raised eyebrows due to its cluelessness regarding the emergence of a grassland bird population and a populist-inspired hawk observation program. Instead the county struggled with an isolated 3-year-old random request for a kayak launch (now discarded) and where to pee.
Chronic whining by some Forest Board members that if people actually come to this remarkable property their presence will ruin it cleverly masked the reality that the County has a problem enforcing the no-swimming lake front and the crowds that it can and does draw on a very few days of the year. Public use issues at this Preserve are real but keeping people out is not the solution. They are, of course, wrong.
Reduced Public Access
So what remains in play is the ability of the public to actually visit this public lakefront property. Today there are 100 total parking spaces. Proposed plans reduce this to only 20 spaces near the lake shore. Another option puts a small parking lot over ½ mile from the coveted bluff and lake shore. All intended to send a clear message that the public is not welcome at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve. This, of course, is wrong.
No Public Input
The County is conducting this Master Plan process without even a Tweet or a Facebook post let alone solicitation of interest on their website or other communications. Nevertheless, due to the sharp eyes of some County agenda-watchers, over 15 people showed up at the inconvenient Monday afternoon sub-committee meeting to express their interest and race through their concerns with a stopwatch monitoring their speaking time. The County considers this public input. This, of course, is also wrong.
The County, which has taken 3 years to get to this point, seems suddenly intent on resolving this matter before people are aware and spring & summer users of the Preserve can be engaged. Sneaky. And cowardly. And certainly not in the public interest.
Take Action Now
If you care about the outcome of the Fort Sheridan Master Plan, you will want to certainly be at any upcoming public discussion. But you need not wait. You should express your concern to each member of the Planning & Restoration Board. Not a Lake County resident? It doesn’t matter. Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve is a world-class property that transcends political boundaries. What you think matters.
Contact Planning & Restoration Committee Board Members:
Ann Maine, President LCFPD firstname.lastname@example.org
Bonnie Thomson Carter, Committee Chair BCarter@lakecountyil.gov
Nick Sauer, Vice Chair NSauer@lakecountyil.gov
Carol Calabresa CCalabresa@lakecountyil.gov
Bill Durkin BDurkin@lakecountyil.gov
Sandra Hart email@example.com
Diane Hewitt DHewitt@lakecountyil.gov
Sid Mathias firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Taylor CTaylor@lakecountyil.gov
Tom Weber TWeber@lakecountyil.gov