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Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve Expands

July 10, 2024 08:13 AM

The Lake County Forest Preserves Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of about 18.2 acres to expand Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve in Lake Forest at a special board meeting Tuesday, July 9.

The U.S. Department of the Navy is selling the $6 million property located on the east side of Patten Road in unincorporated Highwood. It consists of a bluff surrounded on three sides by the ravines of the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, a 71.5-acre parcel. The parcel was gifted to the Forest Preserves last summer by Openlands, a Chicago-based regional conservation organization and land trust, as an addition to Fort Sheridan.

“This is a tremendous enhancement for Fort Sheridan,” Executive Director Alex Ty Kovach said. “We’re elated with this result after 11 years of dedicated work, first by Openlands staff and then by the Forest Preserves.”

The new land meets Forest Preserves acquisition goals of protecting wildlife habitat, preserving wetlands, prairies and forests, providing scenic vistas, protecting Forest Preserves holdings and adding to existing preserves.

“This is a special parcel that will enhance the preserve and is a unique habitat that our District is now able to protect,” said Board Member Paul Frank whose district covers this area. 

Once the transaction closes this fall, the property will be one contiguous parcel surrounded by forest preserves, managing the landscape will be easier and more cost-effective. The fence surrounding the new property will be removed after closing.

“This acquisition is a rare chance to preserve a highly developable piece of land,” said Angelo Kyle, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to purchase and eventually restore this valuable land.”

Currently, there are no funds available to restore the property. However, if a November 5 referendum passes, funds will be allocated for developing a master plan for the portions of Fort Sheridan added in the past two years to integrate them into the northern portion of the preserve.

Voters will be asked to approve the sale of $155 million in bonds. $65 million will be used for land acquisition and $90 million for public access improvements and habitat restoration. The estimated annual increase on a Lake County home valued at $300,000 is just under $33.