Several months ago, the Chicago Bears informed the City of a plan to develop more practice fields and related facilities on property they own that is adjacent to and overlooking the Middlefork Savanna. The Bears are the owners of the property and were given the right to develop additional playing fields when they were issued the original special use permit by the City of Lake Forest. The property is part of the Conway Office Park and accordingly is zoned for office research. Under the current zoning, the property could be developed with a multi-story office building.
Understanding the sensitive nature of the proposed development overlooking the Middlefork Savanna, the Bears have been working with the Forest Preserve, the City of Lake Forest, Lake Forest Open Lands, the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to implement ways to ameliorate the impact of the development on the sensitive preserve.
As a result of these discussions, many protective measures have been taken, including the protection of sensitive wetlands, the creation of a 40-foot landscape buffer to the east of the fields which will be planted with native vegetation, an agreement by the Bears to assist the Forest Preserve with non-native plant removal on an adjacent five-acre parcel, a plan to control nutrient runoff as well as the rate and volume of runoff, an agreement that new detention ponds or bioswales will be planted with native vegetation, and the Bears’ agreement not to install lighting, heating coils or loud speakers on the new fields.
Because the proposed development will require the removal of numerous mature, heritage trees, (trees of significant species 18 inches or more in diameter), the City’s ordinances will require replacement inches and other compensation from the Bears, some of which will be planted to filter views of the Bears’ property from the east along the railroad tracks.
The City and Forest Preserve will continue to work with the Bears to lessen and monitor the impact of this project on the Middlefork Preserve.