Fort Sheridan was decommissioned as a military base in 1993. The LCFPD acquired what is now the Forest Preserve property from the military beginning in 1998. Under the terms mutually agreed when the transfer of property took place, the original golf course was to be restored.
That project was delayed by piles of dirt left behind by the property developer when the Town of Fort Sheridan subdivision was built in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Now it is on the front burner again because, in August, 2008, the original developers agreed to pay $1.75 million to the Lake County Forest Preserve District (LCFPD) to settle a lawsuit to pay for the dirt removal and re-grading of the site.
Moving forward, LCFPD found itself hemmed in on one side by a deed restriction requiring a golf course to be operated on this land “in perpetuity.” Yet the financial estimates for building and operating the golf course and downward trends in golf rounds suggested that the golf course might not be financially self-sustaining.
In early 2009, LCFPD reconvened a Fort Sheridan Master Plan Advisory Committee made up of neighboring local municipal districts and Lake County Board members to research the issue and return a recommendation. The Advisory Committee has been meeting on a regular basis.
In November, 2010, the Advisory Committee held its final meeting. Members were polled and issued a splintered decision. Three members opposed the golf course development “at all” or “at this time.” Six members supported going forward with a golf course but with strong sentiment that it should require private investment and operation. Of those who supported the golf course development some felt that a 9-hole course would permit the land to be shared with passive public access use. Others held to the original concept of an 18-hole championship course.
In June, 2011, the Lake County Forest Preserve District Board voted to privatize their commitment to the Fort Sheridan golf course. The Board authorized up to $70,000 to prepare bid specifications and issue an Request for Proposal (RFP) to design, build and operate a nine-hole golf course.
January 6, 2012 was the due date for bidders to respond to the RFP. No company elected to respond, leaving the Forest Board without a private entity willing to take the risk of developing a golf course. With the Forest Preserve District unwilling to take the risk of developing the golf course and no private developer stepping forward, the Forest Board is left with few options. It was anticipated their next step would be to re-negotiate with the US Army to have the golf course requirement removed from the deed restriction. A formal proposal to take this step was considered by the Forest Preserve Board on March 13, 2012.
At its meeting on March 13, 2012, the Forest Board voted almost unanimously 21-1 to request a modification to the deed restriction removing the golf course requirement. However, before a request could be made to the US Army for this purpose, the Army responded to a letter from Highwood’s mayor saying:
“… the Army also does not have the authority to compel the Lake County Forest Preserve to develop and operate a golf course. Accordingly, so long as the property is not devoted to a use other than a golf course or recreation open space it does not appear necessary for the Army to amend the deeds ….”
With that decision rendered, the Forest Board is moving forward to develop a conceptual master plan for the property that does not include a golf course.
In November 2014, after a 2 1/2 year delay the Forest Board revealed a first draft of their Master Plan. This plan was developed without any current public involvement and introduced at the Planning and Restoration Committee meeting without any public notice. Attendees from the public roundly criticized the plan for lack of public access and encroachment on the emerging grassland habitat. The plan was sent back to County staff for reconsideration.
A second draft of the Master plan was revealed in March 2015. This time the County was armed with a better story but no real improvement in either accommodating the grassland habitat or providing access to the Preserve with suitable parking. Undeterred, the County is making plans to bring these options to a not-yet-scheduled public hearing anticipated to occur in May 2015.