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Forest panel votes to add acreage to Pine Dunes Preserve

Updated: January 12, 2013 1:50AM

Members of a Lake County Forest Preserve District committee Monday voted to spend $10 million on a single-land purchase in Newport Township.

The Land Preservation and Acquisition Committee approved the buy that will add 315 acres to Pine Dunes Forest Preserve bringing that preserve’s total acreage to 751. Pine Dunes is one of five preserves and one state natural area that comprise a 5,300-acre regional trail and greenway in northern Lake County near the Wisconsin border.

The property is located in Newport Township along Edwards Road between Hunt Club Road and Old Route 41, and south of State Line Road.

“Acquisition of this property is part of a long-range effort to preserve and connect a network of natural lands and trail systems in northern Lake County. Its large size and location in the region offer us a significant opportunity to create multiple trails within the preserve for hiking, biking and horseback riding, and provide a major link for the Millennium Trail,” said Ann Maine of Lincolnshire, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “We’ll also be able to conduct extensive restoration projects to improve wetland and grassland bird habitat, and protect and expand oak savanna communities here.”

The seller has agreed to grant a trail easement across adjoining property they retained so that future preserve trails can extend to Old Route 41 and link to a planned Illinois Department of Transportation trail that will run along Russell Road to just east of Interstate 94.

The new land would eventually bridge the gap between neighboring preserves Prairie Stream, Dutch Gap, Raven Glen, Ethel’s Woods and the Millennium Trail to the west of Route 41 and Van Patten Woods, Oak-Hickory, Wadsworth Savanna and the 31-mile Des Plaines River Trail to the east of the highway, forest officials said.

Described by forest preserve natural resource experts as “some of the finest rolling topography found in Lake County,” the new property features a pristine mix of prairie, savanna and oak-hickory woodlands, as well as scenic streams, marshes, sedge meadows, vernal ponds and other wetland communities.

Approximately 70 percent of the land is upland habitat, while the remaining 30 percent is wetland communities. The Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Chicago Wilderness, and the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation have identified these habitats as critical nesting and foraging areas for a variety of birds and other wildlife species.

The land transaction is contingent on approval by the district’s Finance and Administrative Committee which meetings Thursday, Nov. 15, and the full board of commissioners Nov. 20. Final closing is expected in approximately 60 days.

Funds from the voter-approved November 2008 referendum are being used for the purchase.

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