Fox Bluff Conservation Area could add trails, river access

CRYSTAL LAKE – A playscape for small children, trails and increased access to the Fox River are all part of a recommended plan for the Fox Bluff Conservation Area.

The plans – a preferred one and three alternatives – are available for public viewing online and during an open house scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Prairieview Education Center, 2112 Behan Road, Crystal Lake.

There will be another public viewing before the McHenry County Conservation District Board of Trustees votes on a final version at its June 20 meeting.

Conservation district staff members made their recommendation because they felt the plan best accomplished the district’s main goal of integrating natural and cultural resource preservation with meeting the needs of the public, regional planning initiatives and internal operations, spokeswoman Wendy Kummerer said.

All the plans proposed providing kayak and canoe access at the Fox River along with a paved trail leading to a pier, recognizing the Gillilan farmstead as a historical area, developing a pedestrian trail system and incorporating some elements from the historical original plan for the 20 acres that make up Camp Algonquin.

That plan, dated February 1911, was designed by the well-regarded landscape architect Jens Jenson. It includes 16 buildings, a swimming pool, a council ring, vegetable gardens and native landscaping.

While the recommended plan incorporates many of the elements that appear in the other alternative plans, different emphases are placed and different buildings saved in the various plans.

The alternative labeled option three proposes modifying the parking lot on the northern half of the 279-acre site to accommodate horse trailers and is the only one to provide for horses on a trail.

On the southern part of the property, on which the former Camp Algonquin buildings are located, the preferred plan suggests removing all but the recreation hall. The recreation hall would then be renovated and expanded to accommodate public assembly events for which the building could be rented out.

Another alternative suggests saving the dining hall, a newer two-story structure, and using it for public assembly events as well as education department programming.

The third option proposes saving the dairy barn, which would serve “as a visual feature of the past agrarian landscape,” the plan says.

None of the plans propose saving any of the three dormitories. The district had hired PHN Architects to draw up ideas of how the buildings could be renovated and provide rough cost estimates.

At its Feb. 3 meeting, Andy Dogan, a principal at PHN Architects, walked the board through its ideas for three of the buildings it recommended for further review, one of the dormitories, the recreation hall and the dining hall.

If you go

To see all the details proposed in the preferred and alternative preliminary plans for the Fox Bluff Conservation Area, go to the McHenry County Conservation District’s website, mccdistrict.org. They’ll be available through March 18.

An open house complete with a presentation on the plan and time for public comment is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Prairieview Education Center, 2112 Behan Road, Crystal Lake. Staff presentations will start at 6 and 7 p.m.

A revised version will then be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval at its June 20 meeting.

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