Revised plan for Fox Bluff Conservation Area centers on Camp Algonquin

Photo provided
A former dormitory at Camp Algonquin.
Photo provided A former dormitory at Camp Algonquin.

WOODSTOCK – The former Camp Algonquin site would be the focal point of the 279-acre Fox Bluff Conservation Area under a proposed master plan being considered by the McHenry County Conservation District.

About five miles of trails would loop through the area with the half south of Allen Road guiding hikers past a series of historic buildings, a section designed to recognize the first settler family to move to the county and other markers to highlight the role noted landscape architect Jens Jenson played in the camp's design, said the district's planning manager, Amy Peters.

Three of the four buildings included in the plan were set to be demolished under the last proposal, but the McHenry County Historic Preservation Commission and the McHenry County Historical Society's board had protested the move, pointing to the camp's century-long history.

The camp was created in 1907 as part of a nationwide trend of charitable organizations bring urban children to the country to get fresh air and get away from the disease and unsanitary conditions of the slums they lived in.

The revised master plan back before the Board of Trustees and the public proposes saving four of the 40-odd buildings located at the site: a century-old dairy barn, the recreation hall, a small counselors cabin built in the 1950s and one of three dormitories built by the Tribune Company, one of the camp’s main benefactors.

Because those buildings are being kept, the recreation areas and new buildings originally proposed for the north section of the property have been shifted south, Peters said. But most of the uses proposed for the site have remained the same, including about five miles of pedestrian hiking paths, nature play areas, and kayak and canoe access at the Fox River.

In terms of cost and accessibility, the changes have worked out well, Peters said, adding that the only downside to the shift south is that the play area is smaller.

"It meets most of the needs of the county. It also saved the buildings we were looking to save," said Henry Kenyon, who sits on the McHenry County Historical Society's board and attended an open house on the proposal Tuesday afternoon.

Ingrid Schulze, who lives directly to the south of the conservation area, also was positive.

"I think it [addresses] everything I had concerns about," she said, adding that the consolidation of the area's existing trail system would keep it from getting too crowded despite its location between Cary and Algonquin.

But making the proposed master plan a reality requires money, which the district doesn't have set aside for this project, Peters said, adding that there is no implementation timeline for the plan, something that could be a problem for the aging buildings the district is looking to save.

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