On Monday, June 1, 2015 the Planning Committee of the Lake County Forest Preserves District (#LCFPD) voted to spend $100,000+ to plant 2600 native trees and shrubs in Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve. A deeply contentious issue, the vote sets in motion a set of actions that will eventually extinguish 52 acres of successful and unique grassland prairie and the wildlife it supports on the Lake Michigan shore. It is one small backward step for man and one small backward step for mankind.
No Plan. No Support.
The action was taken in the absence of an adopted Master Plan for Fort Sheridan. It was also approved in the face of widespread and vocal opposition. Dissent the District has attempted to stifle at its origin and not share with the board members when successfully expressed in public comment.
Coin of the Realm: Bullying
Although no blood was spilled, the bruises were evident as Board President Ann Maine and her staff spun a tale made of whole cloth, bullied and intimidated other board members who did not share her worldview.
Cart Before the Horse?
The public comment and committee member questions focused on the one procedural issue:
How could the county move forward toward a contract to plant trees on the grassland before there was an approved Master Plan supporting that land management?
There was an audible sucking in of air in astonishment as President Maine exclaimed, with complete disdain for the democratic process, “If we waited for plans, we’d never get anything done.” This disregard for due process was echoed by the District’s Director of Natural Resources Jim Anderson who commented, “This is how we do it.” Meaning, of course, without the approval of the county commissioners or the support of its constituent public.
Shh! Nobody Likes Your Plan.
So besides overrunning the political process, President Maine and staff are withholding till September the outcome of public comment held through a structured online comment forum together with comments written at a well-attended open house. And there’s a reason why.
What President Maine doesn’t want to share is the overwhelming rejection of either of their Concept plans A or B in favor of options that very much resemble exactly what Fort Sheridan Preserve provides today, a fine grassland habitat.
Is Ignorance Bliss?
With their vote today it would appear that the Planning Committee of the Lake County Forest Preserve District is comfortable ignoring its constituents and making insufficiently informed decisions. Thank you Commissioners Hart & Mathias for your rejection of this proposal. We regret your being intimidated for being “freshmen” commissioners. You demonstrated great insight & savvy not shared by your colleagues.
The matter goes before the Finance Committee on Thursday, June 4 and, if approved, to the full LCFPD Board of Commissioners on Tuesday June 9.