Lake Forest City Council Approves Forest Park Master Plan

City will come back with agreement that earmarks how the process will be carried out.


For the second time in recent history, the will partner with a special community board to create another gem worthy of civic pride after the City Council unanimously approved the Forest Park Master Plan Monday night.

The City Council’s approval closed more than two years of public debate on the master plan since it formed the Forest Park Project Board comprised of residents in May 2010 after approving the conceptual master plan. The master plan came to the City Council

“It’s a different master plan and more importantly, it’s a better master plan,” said Ralph Gesualdo, president of the Forest Park Project Board. “I think it’s a plan that better represents the community’s wants and desires for Forest Park by honoring its historic significance.”

The most recent example of a large-scale public-private partnership in Lake Forest was Market Square 2000, when the downtown shopping district received a major facelift in the last decade. Such partnerships not only take the financial burden off the municipality by allowing the special board to run the project, but also reduces the cost of the project by up to 20 percent, according to City Manager Bob Kiely, because costly state regulations are not involved as they would be in a public project.

The next step will be starting to put price tags on the work laid out by the Forest Park Master Plan. The absence of a price for the entire project has been a sticking point over the past two years, and was brought up again during Monday night’s public comment

In response, Kiely said, “it’s very difficult to come up with a budget when you yet don’t have a plan.”

City staff will work with the Forest Park Board to create an agreement pending City Council approval that will break down the cost structure and indicate who will be paying for what. The City has already earmarked $100,000 for , but the rest will come from private donations.

In answer to skepticism over the ability to raise the money needed for Forest Park, Mayor James Cowhey indicated he has seen such money raised before.

“We live in a very unique community that a lot of people are able to contribute not just their time, talent and their checkbooks to help make the community the beautiful place we live in,” Cowhey said. “That might be an argument in some communities, but I’m not sure it holds true for us.”

Alderman Catherine Waldeck asked how the project proceeds as money is raised. Kiely noted during the Market Square project, there was a stipulation in place where 75 percent of the budget had to be collected before any work was done.

“This case is different,” he said. “This project can be broken down into certain components that would allow people to donate for that part of the project and once the money comes in, we could go ahead. The timing of how we do that will have to be discussed as we move forward.”

Alderman Stanford Tack said he did not want the breakdown of donations by components to include naming rights. “This should be looked at as a gift to the city,” he said.

Two other areas also brought up during public comment were parking and the idea of whether the master plan was necessary in place of simply restoring parts of Forest Park.

The master plans indicates up to 70 cars could be parked at Forest Park on special occasions, such as the Fourth of July, and generally never number more than a half dozen a year, according to Kiely. Kiely said the parking plan at present for such occasions is using the north beach parking lot, the parking lot south of Forest Park, the boat lot and then park cars around the ring road.

In his comment, Alderman Mike Adelman said simple restoration would not allow Forest Park to “measure up to the other gems in town,” like Market Square or Elawa Farm.

However, he also cautioned city staff to ensure the Forest Park Project does not come back to burden the city and ultimately taxpayers.

That was the same message from Lake Forest resident Sandy GaNun during public comment.

“This project can become either a stellar project or a black eye for both the city of Lake Forest and the Lake Forest Garden Club depending upon how specific design and financial issues are handled going forward,” he said. “Please be very careful on how you proceed. Lake Forest likes to be known as a special place. Please don’t let it be known as a place of special interests.”

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Arthur H. Miller May 22, 2012 at 02:35 PM
A point that came out in the discussion was the long history of such successful public/private cooperation uniquely here. Indeed, the Lake Forest "idea" came from a private shareholder corporation, the Lake Forest Association, formed in February of 1856, in the Second Presbyterian Ch., Chicago. This group operated to set up the town until 1862, with the intent of turning over to the 1859 village, reorganized as a city in 1861, the area of the 1857 Hotchkiss Plan, with imporvements. The minutes of the executive committee report calling on Hotchkiss to come here in October of 1856, and then organizing a formal survey after his plan was reported in, March 1857. By 1878 the Association, by then long inactive (it ceased during the war and did not resume work on infrastructure after the war), went out of business, naming Lake Forest University the successor organization. The College's Archives have the records of that group. So shares were sold in 1856 to buy the land. Then Hotchkiss was brought in to lay out the plan. Then in the summer of 1857 the shares were converted into lots, though every other lot went to fund the educational institution--with the College and the Academy surviving from this effort. This pattern has continued since then, it is part of the local DNA. The LF Garden Club and its members are the descendants, some of them, of LF Association shareholders, and others live in their former homes.
marco sangria May 22, 2012 at 08:24 PM
O C Simonds accomplishments are noteworthy. Change is difficult. The intent is pure and the foundation strong. Building upon that makes for a greater and more relevant landscape. Press on.
Jay Horton May 24, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Mr. Powers has perhaps spoken a bit too soon when he says that the public debate over the future of Forest Park is closed. If anything it continues to build and draw new interest from all quarters. The future of Forest Park is still very much a subject that will continue to be vigorously examined and discussed as the planning process moves along.
Jay Horton May 24, 2012 at 04:28 AM
For a minute there I thought I was reading a comment by Chauncy Gardner! Thanks so much for cheering my evening.
Marianne Ornsby May 25, 2012 at 10:58 PM
For those who are interested Forest Park and would like a bit more backround on this type of project, The American Society of Landscape Architects(www.asla.org) has a good article; ASLA "PRESERVATION OF HISTORIC SITES, DISTRICTS AND CULTURAL LANDSCAPES". Well worth the reading.


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