HIGHLAND PARK — As the City of Highland Park and the Park District of Highland Park determine whether to continue to operate the golf course on the Highland Park Country Club property, the park district has a vision for converting it into maintained open space.
Based on a conservation easement placed on the land in 2002, it can only be used as a golf course or open space, according to an August 29 DailyNorthShore.com story.
Turning the land into open space is a longterm goal of the park district. Executive Director Liza McElroy said it is part of the Greenprint Master Plan adopted late last year.
Before any changes can be made, the city and park district must come to an understanding. The park district unanimously approved a resolution July 25 asking the city to allow it to cease golf operations December 31, DNS reported. The city requested a meeting between the two legislative bodies. It is scheduled for Monday, October 9 at 5:30 p.m. during the city’s regular Committee of the Whole meeting at City Hall, 1707 St. Johns Avenue. The agenda includes discussion of plans for the Highland Park Country Club and golf course, exploration of the HPCC to house dedicated space for the city’s senior services, and flood mitigation efforts.
The City of Highland Park owns the land where the country club is located and the park district operates it under the terms of a lease that started in 2015. The lease is the product of a 1996 intergovernmental agreement between the two entities.
The park district will gear up its plans for nearly 100 acres of open land between Park Avenue West and Half Day Road if it successfully comes to an arrangement with the city over the future of the golf course, according to Brian Kaplan, president of the Board of Commissioners of the Park District of Highland Park.
“We’re doing nothing until we know the outcome with the city,” said Kaplan.
There may be no action but there is a vision, said Rebecca Grill, natural areas manager for the park district, who has done considerable work on developing ideas for the acreage.
“We look to have open park space for the public,” said Grill. “People using the property will be able to enjoy nature in a tended sort of setting. It will show stewardship that happens to have native planting.”
Grill said she also anticipates walking paths possibly utilizing the cart paths already ringing the golf course. The eastern edge of the area already has a bicycle path stretching north from Park Avenue West to Half Day Road.
Another possibility is connecting the current golf course land to Skokie River Woods, a restored wetland to the west running north along the east side of Highway 41 south of Half Day Road. “People would be able to combine using the two by crossing the river,” said Grill.
Some of the existing ponds on the golf course could be expanded, according to McElroy. That has recreational as well as flood control benefits.
“There would be more water retention,” said McElroy. “It could lead to a place for fishing. There could be paddle boats or a canoe launch.”
Kaplan said uses like boating or fishing will require a review by the park district’s attorney to make sure it comports with the conservation easement.
McElroy anticipates anything that is done will require a partnership with others. Grill said those partners could include the city, the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Though the golf course is designed to produce revenue for the park district and the city, it has lost more than $1 million over the last four years, according to an August 6 DNS article.
Should park district get the green light to cease golf operations at the country club, McElroy said the anticipated budget for the open lands project for the first four years is $350,000.