Suburban Chicago Campground Faces Conversion

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January 12, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

Four generations of Cheri Taluzek's family have spent years swimming, hiking and watching the stars at summer homes on Lake Marie campgrounds in Antioch Township in suburban Chicago. The Taluzeks are among 80 families who will be forced to vacate by Sept. 30 if the Lake County Forest Preserve District, as expected, receives approval to buy the land.

Taluzek said she was stunned when she saw the news, reported Wednesday (Jan. 11) in the Chicago Tribune, that the district board is expected to approve a $7.5 million deal to purchase 227 acres in Antioch Township, including the campgrounds, for a new forest preserve. (Click here to read the original story.)

"It was the biggest heartbreak of my life. We're all heartbroken," said Taluzek, of Plainfield.

On Wednesday, Taluzek sent a letter to Forest Preserve District Executive Director Tom Hahn expressing her disappointment. She said she and other families plan to be at the Jan. 17 board meeting.

In the letter, Taluzek said that with no warning of what was coming, families "spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on upkeep, built new porches last year, invested money in our campers, filled our sheds with tools, bought new boats, added decks on to existing property — for what?"

As the buyer, the forest preserve district could not talk to the campers, Hahn said.

Taluzek said the couple who manage the campground, Butch and Kathie Schneider, apologized Wednesday for the way she and others learned about the deal. The Schneiders belong to the family that has owned the land, near Illinois Route 59 and Beach Grove Road, since the mid-1800s.

Hahn said he understands how upset longtime campers might be.

"The alternative is that it could have been bought by developers," Hahn said. "Now, it will be open space."

Plans for the new Pelican Bay Forest Preserve, which will have public access to Lake Marie, will include meandering trails and restoration of the farm fields to wetlands and a prairie, officials said.

Although she is happy the campground aisn't being lost to a shopping mall, Taluzek said, she and other families from surrounding areas, including Mundelein, Chicago and Darien, are losing years of tradition.

Taluzek's grandparents started spending summers on the campground more than 60 years ago, she said.

"We learned all we know growing up by the lake. … We had a place where computers and iPods and cable and progress took a back seat to just living life and being with your family and friends."

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