Openlands Lakeshore Preserve at Fort Sheridan

24256 North Patten Road
Highwood,IL 60040
6:30 am–sunset, daily.

Openlands Lakeshore Preserve at Fort Sheridan

On Wednesday, August 30, 2023, Openlands transferred ownership of the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve to the Lake County Forest Preserves. The following day we reopened the 71.55-acre addition to Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, in time for Labor Day weekend.

The hours of operation at the picturesque preserve are 6:30 am until sunset daily. Staying on the trails protects sensitive bluff top and ravine habitats. Please keep dogs leashed and on trails at all times, and pick up after them. Learn about our Off-Leash Dog Areas (permit required).

A full public master planning process to incorporate the new property into the larger forest preserve is planned within the coming years.

Fort Sheridan          Press Release          3R Safety Video

Project Updates

June 14, 2023

On June 14, 2023, the Lake County Forest Preserves Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to acquire the 71.55–acre Openlands Lakeshore Preserve. The preserve is currently owned by Openlands, a Chicago-based conservation organization and land trust. If the project proceeds, it will be an addition to Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve and includes:
  • 3 beautifully restored ravines and blufftops.
  • 1 mile of shoreline.
  • Accessible trails, overlooks and art installations.
  • A permanent endowment totaling approximately $1.29 million, which will be held by the Preservation Foundation, the charitable partner of the Lake County Forest Preserves. The endowment will be invested for long-term return, and all proceeds will be used solely for management of the natural resources on the 71.55-acre site.

June 15, 2023

After approving the agreement with Openlands, the Forest Preserves entered a 60-day period of due diligence. During this time, staff have been working to secure a title commitment, completed survey, and an environmental assessment.

As we neared the 60-day mark, the District’s exercised its right to extend the due diligence period for another 30 days. Staff has the draft survey in hand, but it is detailed and complex, and additional time is required to review the document. An issue was also discovered during the environmental assessment, which is likely to be resolved fairly quickly.

Despite extending the due diligence period, the District anticipates closing on the property within the next few weeks and intends to open it to the public on or near Labor Day.

July 10, 2023 (Public Information Session)

A virtual public information session took place July 10, 2023 to provide an update and answer the public’s questions about the potential acquisition of the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve. A recording of the information session is available below, or by clicking here. Below is a summary of questions and answers that resulted from the meeting. If you have additional questions, please enter a public comment entry below. You can also contact the panelists:

Executive Director Alex Ty Kovach:
Director of Community Engagement & Partnerships Rebekah Snyder:
Land Preservation Manager Ken Jones:

Watch Public Session

August 31, 2023

On Wednesday, August 30, 2023, Openlands transferred ownership of the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve to the Lake County Forest Preserves. Openlands is a Chicago-based regional conservation organization and land trust. The following day we reopened the 71.55-acre addition to Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve.

Public Questions and Comments


  • What does "once we get full control of the property" mean? Can you talk about what further steps need to be taken, and the timeline for this?:


    Openlands currently owns the property. We are going through the due diligence period that includes a title commitment, survey, environmental assessment, etc. If there are no delays, we expect to close on the property by mid-August. The Forest Preserves does not own the property until the closing takes place.

    Once the Forest Preserves owns the property, we will implement minor signage changes, mainly to let the public know they are on Forest Preserve property. We hope to reopen the site to the public on or around Labor Day.

    Any major improvements or changes to the site will take place after a public master planning process. It is expected that it will be two or three years before that planning process can occur.

  • Will you explain why it will take a couple years to get to the master plan?:


    We have 64 forest preserves and 208 miles of trails. We own just over 31,000 acres of land and are the largest landowner in Lake County. With that much land to manage and care for, we have many large-scale projects on our plate at the same time.

    Additionally, the Forest Preserves is currently out of funding for capital improvement projects. We plan to ask Lake County voters in 2024 to approve a bond referendum to provide capital dollars to fund projects such as improvements to the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve.

  • What was the impetus for the sale?:


    The Forest Preserves is not purchasing the property; rather, it is a gift from Openlands. Founded in 1963, Openlands is a nonprofit conservation organization and land trust. It protects natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protection of natural habitats and wildlife and helps balance and enrich lives. Openlands has a long, successful track record of acquiring critical parcels and transferring them at the appropriate time to qualified landowners. This was the case here.

  • When will public access improvements start to be made?:


    There is no plan for major improvements to the site at this time, as we have no funding. We intend to do a public master planning process in a couple years.

  • Who is the vendor conducting the environmental study? :


    State Line Environmental, based out of Antioch.

  • What is the status of the study?:


    Stateline has not walked the property, but they have ordered the database search for the study. Staff does not anticipate any difficulty in having the full environmental study completed within the due diligence period.

  • Will the report be made public once finalized?:


    We don’t generally release environmental studies such as these to the public, but it will be made available if someone would like to see it.


  • Will the Westover Road parking space be closed or cleaned up?:


    As far as we know, parking will still be available at this location. Once we have ownership, we will reach out to the landowner to determine what restrictions may exist and if we can formalize this site for public parking.

  • Will there be parking restrictions near the west entrance near the Bartlett Ravine?:


    This is one of the topics for staff to investigate after the Forest Preserves assumes ownership of the property.

  • What parking will be available? What will be done to ensure that Fort Sheridan residents can park by their homes?:


    There will be no immediate changes to the parking opportunities at the property. Any additional parking needs will be addressed through the master planning process.

  • On the south end of the property, people were parking along the neighboring streets, how will this be addressed?:


    We encourage residents to call their local police department for questions or concerns related to parking. Our Ranger Police officers will assist in monitoring these situations, as well.

  • My recommendation is to have Navy and Coast Guard work with Lake County, Highland Park and Highwood to patrol the roads, trails and shoreline as a shared responsibility and add cameras.


    We will work to address the parking issues in this area after we have assumed ownership of the property.

  • The parking situation by the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve was very bad until the area was restricted by stickered parking. Are there plans for something similar at the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve parcel?:


    We do not restrict visitors with stickered parking at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, and this approach will not change if the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve becomes a part of the preserve.

Future Plans

  • What are the plans for the future of the site?:


    In keeping with our practice at other forest preserves, we will have a public master planning process. Generally, this involves two or more conceptual plans for site improvements, which the public can comment on during a defined period of time. Any final master plan for the site will be approved by the Board of Commissioners. We expect it will be two or three years before a master planning process for the site begins.

  • Will there be fencing installed for Fort Sheridan homes?:


    That is a possibility that would be addressed through the master planning process, with opportunities for public comment.

  • Is there a plan to clean up the concrete and rebar along the beach?:


    It is our plan to clean that up, but that is a significant project with a high cost. We do not have the funding at this point.

  • Are there plans for water fountains?:


    This will be determined through the master planning process.

  • Will there be bathrooms?:


    We expect to maintain the temporary toilet facilities that are currently available on the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve. The addition of any constructed toilet facilities will be determined through the master planning process.

  • Renting fire pits would be really cool.:


    The public can make this or any other suggestions through the master planning process.

  • I'm so glad you consider connecting the two bluff top trails! Adding a fenced in hard surface path would presumably satisfy the Army Corps of Engineers since it would add more depth to the clay overfill, they put in the fenced in area?:


    We will work with military representatives on the best solution for the safety of both the public and the natural environment at the site.

  • If you are getting ownership of the land why do you have to work with the Navy on joining the two parcels? :


    The Navy owns the small parcel that sits between the two parcels owned by Openlands. There was once an easement across the Navy’s parcel, but that is not currently in effect. We plan to work with the Navy to find a solution.

  • Is there an opportunity for the public to assist with cleanup of the property once you have acquired it?:


    Yes. The Forest Preserves relies on volunteers in many aspects of its mission. We encourage volunteers to engage with us.

  • What is the condition of the trails?:


    The blufftop trail along the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve is asphalt and appears to be in good condition. Once the Forest Preserve has ownership of the property, staff will conduct a safety assessment of the trail and other infrastructure before opening the site to the public. Weeds, trash, and any other necessary clean-up will also take place before the site is reopened.

  • Is it safe? Have the grounds and beach been checked for contamination?:


    Safety is our No. 1 concern at all preserves. The military has conducted studies at the Openlands site and found it to be safe. We will also conduct a safety assessment before opening the preserve. We do not expect there to be any problems that would prevent the preserve from opening around Labor Day. Like at Fort Sheridan, swimming will not be allowed at the Openlands shoreline.


  • Will swimming be allowed?:


    Swimming is not permitted at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, and will not be allowed on the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve.

  • Will LCFPD maintain the beaches as well?:


    Yes, we will maintain the shoreline.

  • Will dogs be allowed on the beach?:


    Yes. If dogs are leashed, they will be permitted on the shoreline.

  • If there is a dog beach already in place, will that beach still be available starting on the opening day?:


    There is no beach designated for dogs either at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve or the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve. Dogs are allowed, on-leash, on the shoreline.

  • There is no swimming at the other beaches at Fort Sheridan, but it’s not enforced.:


    We will continue to employ additional Ranger Police officers during the busy summer months to the shoreline and upland areas of Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve and the new property.

    For emergencies, call 911. For nonemergency public safety issues, call our Ranger Police Department, weekdays 6:30 am–3 pm at 847-968-3404, email, or call the Lake County Sheriff's Department dispatch at 847-549-5200 and ask to speak with a Ranger.

  • Will the bluff and beachfront be protected as Openlands intended? Will the trail be open to cyclists, which have the potential to make pedestrian use hazardous. How will use be monitored/enforced?:


    The entire 71.55-acre parcel will be protected and in public ownership. Cyclists are currently allowed on paved trails at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, and cycling will be allowed on paved trails throughout the new property. Ranger Police will monitor the entire area.

  • What needs to happen in working with the military to make the shoreline contiguous?:


    We are aware that is an issue. Once we own the property, we will engage military representatives to determine how this can happen. This is the goal we are working toward.

  • The no swimming signs at Fort Sheridan beach are very large and obnoxious and detract from the beauty. Can a smaller sign like used to be there be used instead and in the former Openlands property, with a clear indication that swimming is not allowed but not massive signs and threats of fines?:


    We have tried smaller, less obtrusive signs in the past, and found them ineffective, with patrons stating that they were not visible. Though the signs are not attractive, they have been more effective. When, or if, the occurrence of people entering the water decreases, we can consider returning to the smaller signs.

Caring for the Site

  • Will there be a fee to non-residents?:


    No. With the exception of Independence Grove during specific times, there is no fee to visit any of our 64 forest preserves.

  • Will there be protection of land to avoid building of new homes/ condos or something similar in future/ perpetuity?:


    The 71.55-acre property will be permanently protected and open to the public. Like the other 31,000+ acres that the Forest Preserves owns and maintains, no commercial or private development is allowed.

  • Will the prairie landscape ecosystem be maintained?:


    Yes. That is what we do, and the $1.29 million endowment will help fund the long-term care of the natural resources on the 77-acre property.

  • How will we patrol the new land during and after hours to prevent crime?:


    Our preserves close at sunset. During the summer we do have additional resources in this area.

  • What is the status of the old filled in Wells Ravine as to leaching problems in the past? The Wells Ravine is south of the Van Horne Ravine and north of the Schenck Ravine.:


    According to the 2013 Fort Sheridan Ravine & Coastal Restoration Report, Appendix E – HTRW Report, Wells Ravine was filled in, creating Landfills 6 and 7 (collectively known as Landfill 7). The property is not part of the conveyance to the District, though we plan to work with the Department of Defense to obtain a permanent trail corridor linking the northern and southern portions of the Lakeshore Preserve. Future plans for addressing any leaching issues are the responsibility of the property owners and will not be part of the District’s plans or responsibilities.

General Questions

  • Riding along Patten Road, about midway between the town of Fort Sheridan area (in the north) and military housing (in the south) there are “for sale” signs on both the east and west side fences. Who owns that property and is there danger of some developer buying it and putting up housing and commercial development?:


    This land is still owned by the Navy. It is managed by Midwest Family Homes. We don’t know if there is a possibility of someone buying that property.

Public Comment Entry



More About This Preserve

The Natural Scene

One of the few publicly accessible ravines and blufftop ecosystems in the area, Openlands assumed ownership of the site, part of the former Fort Sheridan Army Base, in phases in 2007 and 2010. The area is of statewide ecological significance and home to at least six threatened and endangered plant species. Thousands of migrating birds rest and refuel at the preserve each year.


On Wednesday, August 30, 2023, Openlands transferred ownership of the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve to the Lake County Forest Preserves. Openlands is a Chicago-based regional conservation organization and land trust.

The following day we reopened the 71.55-acre addition to Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve.