A former Army base may become the largest new segment of protected Great Lakes shoreline in the state of Illinois in decades.
Fort Sheridan, an active military installation until its closure in 1993, was an Army base for over 100 years. One side-effect of the base’s presence was a measure of protection for 2.5 miles of bluff landscape overlooking the lake. Along with this terrestrial feature, the property carries with it a stunning array of rare plants and habitat for endangered birds such as the cerulean warbler.
With the property now in the ownership of the Navy (which has another base nearby), a local organization known as the Openlands Project has been working overtime to find a means to preserve this land from development pressure. The bluffs’ location on the “North Shore” of Chicago makes them attractive for residential development, as lakefront homes and condominiums with a view can command top dollar.
Recently, U.S. Representative Mark Kirk of Illinois introduced a measure into a federal defense-spending bill that would transfer ownership from the Navy to the Openlands Project. The bill passed the House and is awaiting a vote in the Senate. The transfer would not be without cost – Openlands attached a $125,000 estimate to the land survey required before the lakefront could be preserved, and restoration costs would be on top of that figure. But in a state with only 63 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, adding 2.5 miles under the heading “protected” would be invaluable.