The Barrington Area Conservation Trust released a statement today emphasizing their commitment to monitoring conservation easements after the Cook County Forest Preserve’s recent acquisition of the nearly 400 acre Horizon Farms property at 311 Algonquin Road in Barrington Hills. Just last week, a circuit court judge confirmed the $14.4 million dollar sale, the largest single holding acquired by the Forest Preserves since 1968.
Barrington Area Conservation Trust holds a conservation easement on the property with specific guidelines about how it can and can not be used. The legal documents protecting the farm date back to 2003 and are a result of efforts, in part, by Horizon Farm’s previous owner, photographer and BHS graduate, Robert McGinley. The easement’s purpose is to protect the land from large-scale development and preserve its scenic beauty, wildlife and natural heritage forever.
The McGinley family sold the farm to another party in 2006 and in 2009, foreclosure proceedings began on the property. The Forest Preserve submitted a purchase offer in 2013 and, despite a dispute with and final outstanding appeals from the property’s 2006 buyer, that Forest Preserve sale continues to move forward. Today, Cook County Forest Preserve spokesperson, Don Parker, says they’re preparing to conduct an assessment of the site for a full understanding of the existing ecology and infrastructure…
“Following that, we’ll be keeping an open mind and reaching out to the public to get a sense for what Cook County and Barrington area residents are interested in seeing on that land to determine what the best use would be.
As is the case with any forest preserve property, people can expect that there will be a range of considerations for activity options like hiking and biking. We’re thinking about trails and we will certainly be keeping in mind the site’s equestrian history and equestrian infrastructure that’s already in place.
Another thing we’re keeping in mind is the site’s potential as a wildlife habitat. The central part of our mission is conservation and saving nature for the enjoyment of the public. Much of the site right now is horse pasture or hayfield, but at some future point, portions of the site could be restored to more natural prairie or grassland habitat to further support grassland birds and other wildlife.”
The property also a contains a large pond plus some of the land around Goose Lake and Don Parker says their goal is for any restoration efforts to be integrated with the public’s use of the site.
Barrington Area Conservation Trust leaders will meet with Forest Preserve planners next week to discuss how the conservation easement impacts possible uses for the property. Each year since the easement went into effect, BACT has monitored the site to ensure that Horizon Farms and its owners comply with the terms of the conservation easement. Barrington Area Conservation Trust Executive Director Lisa Woolford says they will continue to monitor the property no matter who owns the land.
“We’re so grateful that the McGinleys had the foresight to preserve this beautiful farm. It is an honor to be entrusted with the permanent preservation of such a vital piece of open space in the Barrington area.”
CLICK HERE to read more about Barrington Area Conservation Trust easements and the Horizon Farms property, which accounts for the vast majority of the 500 acres with conservation easements currently in place under the BACT.
The Forest Preserve’s purchase of Horizon Farms brings the total acreage of the Cook County Preserves to 69,123. Forest Preserves spokesperson Don Parker says they have a land acquisition plan in place and are actively looking for other properties that fit their mission. He also says they invite feedback from the community about best uses for specific Forest Preserve properties. For more information, CLICK HERE to follow the Cook County Forest Preserve’s Facebook page or visit their website at fpdcc.com.