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  1. In my opinion, plan B is a disaster (mostly for the birds, since a large portion of the invaluable grassland habitat will be replaced by an oak savanna). Plan A, on the other hand, is a TOTAL disaster, it ruins it for everybody except maybe some local residents who will finally have the lake for themselves.

    The thing that bugs me most as someone who loves photography, birding and walking the trails of Fort Sheridan FP is the plan of replacing large portion of the western grassland with an oak savanna. That would basically change the prairie into a narrow grassy strip around the creek. We would likely never see the rare endangered birds breeding in that area: Henslow’s and Grasshoper Sparrows, Dicksissels. It would have an impact on other species’ breeding populations too. I know we would get a few more chickadees and woodpeckers once the trees grow, but those species already have plenty of habitat elsewhere!

    Fort Sheridan is a fantastic place for birding. It has 226 species on its ebird list (!), and most of them were recorded in the last couple of years. It’s one of the few MOST IMPORTANT BIRD SPOTS in Lake County, along with Waukegan Beach and Illinois Beach Park! LCFPD has done a wonderful job restoring the place years ago and enabling all that bird diversity, why ruin it now with an oak savanna? The open grassland is often used during migration by raptors – Harriers, Kestrels, Rough-legged Hawks and other birds of prey that need to feed on their long, trecherous journeys across the country. It is used by Red-tail and Cooper’s Hawks in the breeding season. If you stand in the parking lot late in the fall on strong western winds, it’s probably the best place in Lake County to see Bald and Golden Eagles migrating overhead. Last fall there were about 50 Bald Eagles counted there during a hawkwatching effort by raptor enthusiasts!

    LCFPD mentions restoration as a way to protect engangered species. My question is: what species ? Certainly not birds/animals because those would no doubt take a serious hit with the provided plans. Red-headed Woodpeckers might benefit from more trees in the future, but they nest in old dead trees and they are already doing fantastic in that area. Changes in their habitat may actually have an adverse effect on them.

    Second thing is the beach access. I’ve been in the preserve so many times and one thing is very obvious about people’s traffic there – almost everyone walks toward the beach! People don’t generally come to Fort Sheridan to walk in the grass, they come to see the lake, the beautiful pebble beach, to look at and photograph the lake from above, to read a book while sitting on the beach rocks, to walk their dog on the beach with the kids playing around, to walk holding hands with their significant others. Yes, some people will walk the loop trail with their dogs, jog or use it for cross-country skying, but majority come there to see THE LAKE!

    What LCFPD is trying to do here is basically putting a muffle over their own succes story, which Fort Sheridan FP has definitely become in recent years. Making it hard for both birds and people, and only catering to the interests of those who would like to have the place to their own. As one guy I met there once said: “It’s the best hidden gem in the North Shore”. The word got out and someone wants to hide it from people again!

    I truly hope that people’s input will stop those plans and help to find a way for everyone to enjoy that unique place! Place do voice your concerns! Let the LCFPD know that you are not going to be silent over taking away the access to this lakeshore forest preserve!

  2. We are so fortunate to enjoy bird-watching and hiking at Fort Sheridan! What a treasure. I hope the community will participate in the discussions of how to best preserve the ecosystems of this open land, ensuring it will continue to support migratory birds as well as birds that depend on grassland and open forest habitat. I also hope the Forest Preserve district staff will inform the public of any upcoming meetings to discuss the future of Fort Sheridan.

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