Ever since the Openlands Lake Front Preserve opened just over two years ago, people have been able to enjoy a mile long path on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.
That may be about to change because the United States Navy may block access to part of the path located atop a landfill overlooking the lake. Openlands and the Navy have been trying to negotiate an easement for the last two years.
“It’s been a long drawn out process,” Openlands President Jerry Adelmann said. “We hoped to complete the path (over the existing dirt path). They own it,” he added referring to the property that was once a United States Army landfill when Ft. Sheridan was an active military base. It is now owned by the Navy.
The path begins on the south at Walker Avenue and the lakefront in north Highland Park. Heading north, it is paved asphalt for a little less than half a mile. It then becomes grass and dirt for one-eighth of a mile before the asphalt resumes to the north ending at Patten Road a mile north of Walker.
The Navy’s concern is erosion of the land fill which was covered with top soil making the path and beach improvements possible, according to Bill Couch, the public information officer for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command-Midwest.
“The area is perched on a slope making erosion possible,” Couch said. “In the long term we are worried about increased cost and safety.”
The Navy may block complete access to the former landfill between the two sections of the Openlands Preserve. “A chain link fence is one of the items under discussion,” Couch said. Adelmann said the path may have to wind through a residential area and back into the preserve.
The final decision will be made by Navy Capt. William Bulis, the commanding officer of Naval Station Great Lakes.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Highland Park), who lives in the Town of Ft. Sheridan near the preserve, was instrumental helping Openlands obtain the land and turn it into nature area. He declined to comment on the situation.