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Update: Land purchase will expand Grant Woods Forest Preserve

Virginia bluebells bloom in April at Grant Woods Forest Preserve (Sheryl DeVore/Tribune)

Virginia bluebells bloom in April at Grant Woods Forest Preserve (Sheryl DeVore/Tribune)

The Lake County Forest Preserves Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a $3-million land purchase that will increase the size of Grant Woods Forest Preserve to 1,225 acres.

The Lake Villa property, which has a half mile of frontage road, is located north of Grand Avenue and east of Route 59.

“This new property will create a link from Grant Woods north to Bluebird Meadow,” said Tom Hahn, executive director of the forest preserve district. “A new trail will meander through oak trees that are 100- to 150- years old.”

He said the purchase will preserve scenic views along roads and that there is also the potential to restore wetlands and prairie on the property.

“With this new property, we can establish a big linear greenway that people can use for hiking and biking,” Hahn said.

A small portion of the land along the proposed trail system is owned by Lake Villa Township.

“They’ve already put part of a trail in there and they’re excited we’ll add to that,” Hahn said.

Nan Buckardt, director of environmental education and public affairs, said the extra land will act as a buffer for Grant Woods, one of the preserve’s largest land parcels.

“The ecosystem there is really important,” said Buckardt.

The preserve addition will be financed as a result of a November 2008 referendum measure, in which 66 percent of Lake County voters approved $148 million for land acquisition.  After the Grant Woods purchase, there will be $36 million left to buy land, said Hahn.

Voters also approved $37 million for restoration work and public access in that referendum.

In January, the board purchased 227 acres to create a new preserve bordering Lake Marie in Antioch Township. The board bought the land for $7.5 million at about $32,800 per acre.

The Grant Woods addition will be  about $30,000 an acre, said Hahn. Forest preserves officials have been eyeing the property for about 10 years, he said. With the real estate market so depressed and few developers buying land, it’s a good time for the forest preserve to purchase property, he said.

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