Tag Archives: master plan

Pre-Construction Engineering to Begin at Fort Sheridan

An engineering services contract will be let to prepare bidding and contract documents for implementation of the Public Access Improvements as part of the Fort Sheridan Master Plan.  The contract requires committee and board approval. The Planning Committee will consider this matter at its June 6, 2016 meeting.

It is important to note this is for the engineering services and not for the actual implementation and restoration work.


The Fort Sheridan Master Plan was approved by the Board on November 10, 2015. As part of the Plan approval, the Board directed staff to proceed with the implementation of all public access and restoration work north of the Parade Grounds. The public access portion of the work includes improvements and reconfiguration of the existing access drive, a new paved 45-car parking lot with an evaporator toilet, trailhead improvements at the north parking lot with an evaporator toilet, 0.7 miles of new asphalt trail, improvements to the existing 1.8 mile grass trail, removal of the remaining section of George Bell Road, accessibility improvements to the existing Hutchinson Trail, five new timber boardwalks/bridges, and two scenic overlooks.

The engineering services contract will provide land surveying, wetland delineation, data collection, subsurface drainage inventory, permitting and agency coordination, design, engineering, geotechnical investigation, hydrologic/hydraulic analysis, and preparation of bidding and contract documents. Engineering work is scheduled to begin in July 2016 with completion anticipated in January 2017.


This project was approved as part of the adopted FY2015/2016 Capital Improvement Plan in the amount of $2,943,146.00. This portion of the project (engineering services) was estimated at $262,228.00. The actual cost is $220,765.00


The “Mysterious” Revised Concept Plan for Fort Sheridan

Active older adultsOn Monday, August 31 the Lake County Forest Board planning committee will be asked to approve a Revised Concept Plan for Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve. The agenda item reads:

“Recommend approval of Revised Concept Plan for Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, and permission to proceed with preparation of Final Master Plan”

There’s only one problem. What is the Revised Concept Plan?

  • Has anyone seen it?
  • Will the committee receive both a presentation AND be asked to vote on the same day?
  • In spite of the hot contention of this issue, is the public completely shut out from either viewing or commenting on this plan BEFORE it is voted on?
  • Is this really the way we want our government to function?

It is both unfortunate and sad when our government plays a cat and mouse game on issues of concern and interest to the public. This has been the history of the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve Master Plan process:

  • Failure to engage the public prior to purchasing 2900 trees.
  • Failure to have an approved plan in place prior to purchasing trees or engaging a contractor to plant the trees.
  • Failure to engage the public prior to developing  two unpopular plan options
  • Aggressively discouraging public presentation of an alternative plan
  • Failure to distribute the Revised Concept Plan before a vote on it

Whew. I guess we get the government we deserve. If this is ok with you, that is. It is not ok with me.

The Revised Concept Plan will be considered at the meeting of the Planning & Restoration Committee on Monday 8/31 at 1:30. The committee meets at Lake County Forest Preserve HQ at 1899 W. Winchester Road in Libertyville.

You can see the  Agenda – Planning and Restoration Committee here (click to download).

And you can see the proposed recommended committee action & background study they conducted over the summer here (click to download).

But you cannot see the Revised Concept Plan. It is a Mystery.

How the Lake County Forest Preserve Does Things

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.

The Case for Plan C at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve

Plan C is a citizen-based initiative to provide an alternative to the ill-conceived Concept Plans A & B being advanced by the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

What is exceptionally appealing about Plan C is that it is the only option that has a proven track record of success. Plan C is close to the status quo of what the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve is today and has been for the last 3 years. And this has proven to be a very popular and huge success. Plan C builds on that success. It needs your support.

Plan C Supports Public Access & Grassland Habitat

Plan C Map of Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve
Plan C retains the 80 car parking lot and the successful grassland habitat. Click to download & view the larger PDF image.

Principal tenets of Plan C

  • Retain the existing 80 car parking lot.

The existing hard-pack 80 car parking lot enables centralized walking access for the elderly, handicap and families with young children to the lake, southern ravines as well as the grassland trails. Citizen-collected data indicates that an 80-car parking lot meets the parking needs of the Preserve more than 90% of the time. LCFPD has no data on parking requirements. Their plans are based on guesses and political objectives.

  • Maintain the grasslands.

The successful grasslands are home to nesting grassland birds, species whose numbers have diminished largely due to loss of habitat. Plan C also supports additional study prior to any consequential negative impact. Additionally the open space panoramic prairie view is one of the favorite features of the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve with visitors. All LCFPD data has been provided by citizen scientists. They have no data of their own on the success of this grassland.

  • Plant trees along the western end of Fort Sheridan.

This will help deaden the traffic noise from Sheridan Road and block the visual sightline of buildings and traffic for those in the Preserve thereby improving the natural environment experience.

  • Plant new trees in existing stands where trees are in decline.

Rejuvenate existing wooded areas that have been diminished through natural events and the absence of proactive management.

  • Proceed with proposed Parade Ground enhancements.

Plan C supports both Concept A & B proposals to naturalize the perimeter of the historic Parade Grounds as well as to complete the walking trail loop

  • Improve picnic area in the existing main parking lot.

Provide picnic areas near the parking and restroom facilities.

  • Upgrade toilets in the existing main parking lot.

Replace existing portable toilets with evaporator type toilets and locate near existing main parking lot and near Cemetery parking lot.

  • Add platform for Natural Viewing Area & Hawk Watch.

Build a permanent platform near the existing main parking lot in cooperation with the nascent Hawk Watch station.

  • Add two additional litter stations for dogs.

Enhance dog management by adding on-leash signage and dog waste stations near the main parking lot and the Cemetery parking lot.

Plan C Addresses Management Issues

Plan C is also the only option that explicitly recognizes the problems that have emerged at the Preserve and need to be addressed. These include:

  • Unauthorized entry to Lake Michigan along the non-swimming lakeshore
  • Degradation of the bluff due to off-trail foot traffic
  • Identification and preservation of plants of concern
Identification and Protection of Plants of Concern

The Preserve is fortunate to be host to several plants of concern. These plants and their habitats will be identified, cordoned off, labeled. Educational programming is proposed to draw attention to these plants and encourage their preservation and continued development consistent with the LCFPD 100-year Vision to restore the area to ecological health.

Bluff Protection

There are multiple bluff protection strategies that can be deployed individually or in combination. These include:

  • Nature-scaping the bluff with shrubs that deter foot traffic,
  • Signage at the bottom & top of the bluff  identifying the threat to the bluff
  • Physical restraints such as roping the area
Lakeshore Management

Lakeshore management is a seasonal enforcement matter. Prominent signage, assessment of fines and periodic enforcement sweeps along the lakeshore at strategic times will send the message that this shoreline is not for public swimming.

Plan C Needs Your Active Support

Tell the Lake County Forest Preserve that your support Plan C by going to their website and submitting your comments on their form. It does NOT matter if you are a Lake County resident or not. Please share your opinion.

Tell them you support:

1. Retaining pubic access and the existing 80 car parking

2. Retaining the successful and popular grassland habitat

Why Public Access at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve is Important

The most significant aspect of the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve Concept Plans being advanced by the Lake County Forest Preserve District (LCFPD) is the provision for parking.

Just a Public Works Project?

To the casual public, the location of the parking lots and the number of parking spaces may look like an innocuous public works project. But in fact it encapsulates some fundamental public policy issues. Permit me to connect the dots.

walker with caneReducing the number of parking spaces and moving parking further from the bluff and the lakeshore achieves two things:
1) It puts a physical limit on the number of people who can be in the Preserve.
2) It makes it inconvenient for people to visit the very assets of the preserve (bluff and lakeshore) that they find appealing.

Such an incredulous outcome begs the question:

Why would the Forest Preserve want to limit visits and make it inconvenient?


One answer has been given overtly by LCFPD President Ann Maine who has said “We can love our parks to death.”


The second answer has to be inferred because LCFPD hasn’t addressed it directly. That answer is that LCFPD has an enforcement problem. The lake shore is a non-swimming beach. So one way to keep swimmers off the beach is to make it very difficult to get to the beach in the first place.

Let’s explore this and understand why this thinking is wrong minded and not in the public interest.

In opposition to the LCFPD 100-year Vision

The “100-year Vision for Lake County” was recently adopted by the LCFPDwalker with cane as one its three pillars for the next 100 years (Leadership, Conservation, People) – Under the “People” section they state:

“The Forest Preserve District and partners will promote an active, healthy lifestyle by providing convenient access  for people to enjoy outdoor recreation and explore nature in clean and safe preserves and on an accessible regional network of land and water trails…..”

Certainly the proposed plan is in direct opposition to this stated objective.

We don’t protect what we don’t experience

last-child-cover-lrgConservation organizations and the think tanks that support them have recognized that people won’t be motivated to allocate resources to protect our environment if they don’t experience the environment. This may seem obvious, but there is a lot of work done and data to support this thinking.

Richard Louv’s seminal book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder created an increased interest in children’s environmental awareness. In sum, we are raising generations of people who do not experience and do not have convenient access to nature.

Can we really love Fort Sheridan to death?

No. Not with proper management. I have personally driven around Lake Michigan and witnessed many forms of lake shore management where endangered plants are growing and where endangered birds (e.g. Piping Plover) nest. You need only drive to Montrose Bird Sanctuary (Magic Hedge) that is frequented by far more people in less space than Fort Sheridan. Aggressive dog management, ropes cordoning off important plant areas are all in place to prevent us from “loving our parks to death.” Ann Maine is wrong. Only by mis-managing Ft. Sheridan can we injure it.

But this management takes some thoughtfulness, ongoing maintenance and money. And, in the end, this is about LCFPD not wanting to spend the money at this Preserve.

Missed education opportunity

If LCFPD believes we have important assets that should be protected, rather than make this Preserve difficult to access, make an effort to identify and protect these assets. Put up signage explaining their value. Create programs around these assets and help people understand the important & endangered species right under their feet (literally). Don’t hide these resources where nobody can see them or know anything about them. Education is a key mission of LCFPD. Why would LCFPD shirk from this responsibility? This is an opportunity that should not be missed!

Again, from the 100 Year Vision:

“The District will engage its diverse population through creative education and outreach programs to ensure that future generations are inspired to treasure and support Lake County’s unique natural, historical and cultural resources.”

Oh yeah? Well, not with the proposed Concept Plans. In fact, the proposed plans are directly in opposition to these adopted policies.

The wrong people are affected

Commissioner Sandra Hart said it best in her recent email about the proposed plans. She wrote,

“I believe that these Concept Plans will significantly impact the number of veterans, elderly, disabled, and families who can visit Fort Sheridan to view Lake Michigan from the bluff or the shoreline. By decreasing or eliminating parking from the existing area, it will be very difficult for less mobile people to enjoy this spectacular vista.”

In a nutshell, the healthy & mobile will not be deterred. Teens and healthy young people without children will still flock to this lakefront because the mile walk from wherever they can find a place doesn’t bother them. And they’ll pee in the woods. And swim in the lake. But families with kids and the mobility challenged will be excluded.

This is embarrassing and damning public policy and we cannot let it prevail. We must separate the access issue from the enforcement solutions. Public access and the parking required should be provided. Let’s focus on enforcement as a separate issue.

Public comment on the proposed plans is welcome through April 30 by going to this website. Make your opinion known.

Fort Sheridan Master Plan Concepts – The Video

One thing I’ve learned about truth is that there are many versions of it. Each person interprets the world through his or her own lens. And that is their truth.

My truth is that our public preserve, Fort Sheridan, is about to be closed to the public and inaccessible to people with mobility problems who seek to visit the main attraction – the bluff and the lakefront. That the accidental prairie that has proved so successful as a habitat for rare grassland birds is about to be diminished and possibly ruined. Our state scientists don’t know what will happen to the bird habitat due to the planting of 50 acres of trees. And our County hasn’t even considered the issue. That’s my view. But don’t believe me.

Here’s a 13 minute video of the presentation of the concepts for the Fort Sheridan Preserve’s Master Plan. I’ve annotated some unclear parts and added some additional text commentary. I also edited out sneezing and coughing and some irrelevant editorial by the presenter expressing his own opinions.

Keep in mind just one more truth. Lake County Forest Preserve District hasn’t lifted a finger to engage the public in any discussion regarding the Fort Sheridan Preserve. No mechanism exists to provide them feedback other than writing the committee members. Only a vigilant public has pulled the covers back on their initiatives and shined the light on their activities. Now they are racing toward a public hearing on the Preserve scheduled for April 8 for 2 hours during a weekday rush hour. This is clearly intended to continue to keep the working public out of the discussion. This is what they have called, “a process that works very well.” I think they should be ashamed of their behavior. That’s my truth. Watch the video and find your own truth:

Fort Sheridan Preserve Master Plan Open House April 8

The Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve Master Plan Open House will be held on Wednesday, April 8, 2015, from 5-7 PM at the Midwest Young Artist Center within the Town of Fort Sheridan Subdivision.

Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve Master Plan Open House
Unstructured Open House like this one held in 2012 permits one on one discussion regarding the Fort Sheridan Master Plan

There is no formal presentation and attendees may arrive anytime within the scheduled Open House hours. The main purpose of the Open House is to gather feedback on the proposals prepared by the Lake County Forest Preserve.

Information on the options and plans will be posted. Forest Preserve staff and commissioners will be present to engage in one on one discussion.

The Open House will be held at the following address:

Midwest Young Artist Center
878 Lyster Road
Highwood (Map)
5 PM to 7 PM
(This is located in the Town of Fort Sheridan subdivision on the west side of the Parade Ground)

If you cannot attend, you can provide your input online here.