Change in course at Fort Sheridan the right move
Updated: March 29, 2012 3:42PM
Lake County Forest Preserve District commissioners recently put plans to build a nine-hole golf course on the grounds of the former Fort Sheridan into the deep rough. The 21-1 vote wasn’t even close, with Brent Paxton of Zion the lone voice calling for officials to stick to the deed restriction, which calls for a golf course to be built. Instead, commissioners want to use that land as open space -- as it is now -- for recreational trails, habitat restoration and scenic overlooks.
The Department of the Army, which gave the land to the county for free when the base was shut down, needs to approve removing the deed restriction. The argument that they should is that things have changed since the 1990s, when the county accepted a few hundreds acres on the north end of the post as forest preserve.
Since 2000, the Lake County Forest Preserve District has spent more than $1.4 million on consultants related to the Fort Sheridan golf course development and for legal fees; thousands of hours of staff time have been spent working with consultants and developing and analyzing golf course options. After sending out requests for proposals for the nine-hole course to nearly 1,000 golf course builders, facility developers, contractors, golf course management companies and golf course owners, the county received no responses. That is telling.
Locally and nationally, the game of golf is suffering. While futurists had predicted members of the Baby Boom generation would hit the links once they retired, economic realities and changing lifestyles have buried that hope. Or perhaps they just agree with Mark Twain, who believed golf was “a good walk spoiled.”
County figures for the district’s three courses — Brae Loch near Grayslake, Countryside near Mundelein and ThunderHawk near Beach Park — show rounds of golf have decreased by 23 percent in the past half decade. It’s the same at other public-run tracts such as Deerpath Golf Course in Lake Forest, which has seen revenue drop more than $300,000 from the $1.6 million it generated in 2007.
By asking the Army to remove the deed restriction, we believe the foresters are on the right course. Though some homeowners argue they were promised a golf course (the original one was razed in 2003), there are plenty of public courses within a 15-minute drive. The land itself already is beautiful and enjoyed by many. There’s about $2 million of existing funds allocated to Fort Sheridan that can be used to garner open space improvements.
That makes sense because we don’t think the county and its taxpayers should be held to a 15-year-old agreement when logic and fiscal responsibility dictate a change in course.