23 Aug 2014
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Five Options for Fox Bluff Conservation, Camp Algonquin Site

The McHenry County Conservation District is asking for the public's input on five options they have identified for the Fox Bluff Conservation area.

A sledding hill, a boardwalk and fishing piers along the Fox River and a natural play area where kids can build forts are all a part of the conceptual plans for the Fox Bluff Conservation area.

The McHenry County Conservation District revealed five draft options to a master plan for the 279 acres of its Fox Bluff Conservation area, which includes the former site of Camp Algonquin, during an open house last week. The land is located west of Cold Springs Road and stretches from Cary Algonquin Road to the Fox River with a portion of the land in Algonquin and another portion in Cary.

The southern portion of that land makes up the Fox Bluff Conservation area, which is currently open to the public with access and parking off of Cold Springs Road. The sites includes a half-mile of Fox River access, a picnic shelter, .25-mile paved trail down to the Fox River and a .55-mile grass trail on the northern portion of the land.

All of the draft options under the master plan aim to connect the current Fox Bluff Conservation area to the former Camp Algonquin site, which has been closed to the public for over a year, with a system of trails, said Amy Peters, planning and development manager for the McHenry County Conservation District.

In January 2011, the McHenry County YMCA, which managed Camp Algonquin, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, partially due to pending lawsuits against the camp, according to the Northwest Herald. Negligence lawsuits were filed by families of teenage boys who drowned in the Fox River while attending Camp Algonquin in November 2008.

The Five Options

The first two draft options are specifically for the Fox Bluff Conservation area, which is made up of 116 acres on the northern portion of the land and the final three are for the former Camp Algonquin site. 

The McHenry County Conservation District will be taking public comments on the five draft options through Aug. 24. Comments can be directed to Amy Peters at apeters@mccdistrict.org. 

Here are the highlights from both of the plans for the Fox Bluff Conservation area:

  • Option 1 for the Fox Bluff Conservation Area: The MCCD would keep the main access point to the conservation area along Cold Springs road and update infrastructure in that area. The plan calls for a boardwalk system along the Fox River and fishing piers. The plan also aims to connect trails in the conservation area to an existing bike trail located across from the site along Cary Algonquin Road. 
  • Option 2 for the Fox Bluff Conservation Area: Under this plan, the main entrance would be off of Cary-Algonquin Road instead of Cold Springs Road. A sledding hill, warming house and ice skating area is proposed to offer winter recreational options for the area. A unique component to this plan is an area designated for off-trail exploration in a natural environment, which Peters explained as an area where kids could build forts with sticks and “get dirty in a safe and natural environment.” This plan also call for a pier system along the Fox River and a few more trail options than the first option.

Options for Former Camp Algonquin Site

The MCCD has identified three options for the Camp Algonquin site.

Under all of the plans, the entrance to the site will stay the same along Cary-Algonquin Road.

In addition, all of the site plans aim to save a dairy barn located near the entrance and proposed parking area. The barn would be used as a farmstead or for some sort of retail purpose.

Since the first farm — owned by the Gillilan family — in McHenry County was located on the Camp Algonquin site, some sort of historical marker in the area is designated under all of the plans.

In addition, the following options would include:

  • Option 3 for Camp Algonquin Site:
  • This option calls for saving three of the Tribune dormitories that were a part of Camp Algonquin. An architectural firm would be hired to see if the buildings are structurally sound and large enough to be rented out for conferences, weddings or other public assembly options, Peters said. The MCCD would look at saving one other building on the site—the first structure built at Camp Algonquin—for some sort of public assembly.  The plan also calls for a parking lot by the river, piers along the river and a large grassy area that provides views of the river. Foot bridges, including one over a large ravine with water running through it, are included in the plan. “That’s a very unique natural feature and we would like to bring people to it,” said Peters of the ravine. 

  • Option Four for Camp Algonquin Site: This option is exactly the same as option three, except instead of examining the three Tribune dormitories for re-use, the MCCD would look at saving the former Camp Algonquin dining hall. “It’s large, and it has a kitchen. We would look at what it’s potential is for public assembly,” Peters said. 
  • Option Five for Camp Algonquin Site: Jens Jensen, a famous landscape architect from the late 1800s/early 1900s, created a plan for the Camp Algonquin area. The option five of the MCCD’s plan incorporates some of the Jensen’s plan, including a vegetable garden, bluff stairs, river trail, symbolic pool lawn and council ring. The only building, other than the farmstead, kept in this plan would be one of the Tribune dormitories. The MCCD would explore using this facility as a museum to highlight the history of Camp Algonquin site. This plan also calls for an ampitheater. “This would be an outdoor space built into the landscape for music or theater,” Peters said. 
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