Background on Fort Sheridan

Background
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.

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3 thoughts on “Background on Fort Sheridan

  1. One, do we want to pour more and more chemicals into our watershed which is what a golfcourse does. According to, Environment Illinois, “Lake Michigan is also in danger from rampant shoreline development, toxic pollution, invasive species, sewage overflows and unrestricted water withdrawals. Scientists warn that the lakes are on the verge of ecological collapse”.

    It is particularly concerning when the proposed watershed dumps directly into Lake Michigan

    Two, why use this gift of open land for yet another golf couse. One of my favorite courses is 2 minutes away from Fort Sheridan, Highland Park Country Club, only $15 for 9 holes, $25.00 for 18, in Highland Park, just around the corner. Please read the description below from their web site.

    Operated for most of its 40 years as an exclusive private country club, Highland Park’s immaculately maintained 18- hole public golf course offers an unforgettable challenge for players of all skill levels. In 1997, world-renowned architect Dick Nugent re-designed the course adding subtle challenges to this pristine old-style, country club layout. With over 1,700 trees lining the fairways and large undulating greens, Highland Park’s scenic beauty and world-class amenities make it the perfect locale for golf outings, weddings, banquets and fundraising events.

    Do we need another golf course? How lucky we are that open land was given back to us on this more crowded/congested edge of Lake Michigan.

    Let’s use it wisely with all species in mind.

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  2. You’re probably right. Most of those identified species may not have been endangered 80 years ago. And it is regrettable that they are today as a result of massive losses of habitat in which they might thrive. But now that they’ve been identified, it seems like some consideration should be given to their existence. I also believe that these specific endangered species can be accommodated whether this land were a golf course or an open access public space. So I believe it is a non-issue in the decision process.

    This land has not been an untouched nature preserve. It has been an airstrip and a Nike missle site. Its been used for artillery. That it has now fallen into the local government’s hands and is committed to public access is a miracle. Yet the land has international significance that we locals, as most locals always do, take for granted.

    The bluffs over Lake Michigan are a unique phenomena. They are celebrated at the Indiana Dunes State Park, along much of the western shore of Michigan and particulary at Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park. Having this beautiful bluff on which the public can gather is a treasure and we must care for it responsibly.

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  3. I don’t think any of those species were threatened when this parcel by what was an operating golf course in this spot for most of the last 80 years. Do you?

    It was first opened and operated as a golf course by the Army in 1937. It may not have been in continuous operation up until 2004, but your website makes it seem as if this was untouched nature preserve, which it clearly was not.

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