Formerly the McClure family homestead, the section of the preserve on Edwards Road west of Hunt Club Road features well-maintained woodlands, wetlands and prairie. This property is special because of its diverse topography and the work that former owners, Ilse and Michal McClure, put into improving the natural features since they bought the property in 1977. When the family sold us the property in October 2010, their desire was to preserve it as a forest preserve that could be enjoyed for years to come.
The McClure's began a successful European sport horse breeding program in the U.S., and Michal McClure also became the German-approved importer for the Oldenburg breed as the North American representative for the German Oldenburg Breeding Association. Michal is also an accomplished author and photographer, capturing cultures, nature and people through the lens of his camera.
The Irish Hills
The name Irish Hills was used for the large settlement of Irish immigrants who established farms in the rolling hills around Hunt Club Road and Route 173, in what is now part of Pine Dunes. The place name was commonly used from the 1840s to the early 1900s. Many of these settlers attended St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Wadsworth.
Remnant of an early settler’s log cabin along Mill Creek Road
From the 1960s to 1990s, the Ralph G. Eyles property called "Eyleland" at 7484 West Edwards Road (now part of Pine Dunes on the north side of Edwards Road) was used for a Whippet racing track. The races were sanctioned by the Whippet Racing Association and Large Gazehound Racing Association.
The Natural Scene
Pine Dunes is one of five preserves and one state natural area that comprise a 5,300-acre regional trail and greenway in northern Lake County near the Wisconsin border.
Described by our natural resource experts as “some of the finest rolling topography found in Lake County,” Pine Dunes features a pristine mix of prairie, savanna and oak-hickory woodlands, as well as scenic streams, marshes, sedge meadows, vernal ponds and other wetland communities.
Approximately 70 percent of the land is upland habitat, while the remaining 30 percent is wetland communities. The Illinois Wildlife Action Plan and Chicago Wilderness have identified these habitats as critical nesting and foraging areas for a variety of birds and other wildlife species.
Preserve Benefits from Mitigation Project
In 2013, we entered an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (ISTHA) for the mitigation of impacts associated with the construction of the O’Hare International Airport Western Access Project. The agreement provided access for ISTHA to construct public access improvements and to implement wetland and upland restoration at Pine Dunes to meet the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mitigation requirements.
The collaboration was successful. ISTHA restored 80 acres of wetlands and 235 acres of adjacent savanna and prairie habitat. The work provided critical habitat for savanna species such as the red-headed woodpecker, eastern bluebird and least flycatcher, and for wetland birds, frogs and salamanders.
In addition to the habitat restoration work, the mitigation project also provided for public access improvements for the benefit of preserve visitors.