Monday, November 3, 2008

Lake County Forest Preserves

Tomorrow is election day and besides voting for a new president, Lake County voters will be voting on the Forest Preserve Referendum. Voters will decide about future funding for Forest Preserve lands, habitats, trails and improvements. The referendum will provide $185 million to create new trails, restore lost wildlife habitats and improve public access to new and existing preserves.

Ask most people that you know and they will tell you that they are in favor of preserving open space, but some do want to pay for it. Because some older Forest Preserve bonds are being paid off in the coming year, approval of the Forest Preserve Referendum would not increase the property taxes that people pay to support their Forest Preserves. You read that right - no tax increase.

With approval, $185 million of bonds will be issued to replace the retiring bonds and the tax rate would decrease slightly (about $0.75 per $200,000 of a home’s market value).
Without approval, Forest Preserve property taxes would decrease by up to $24 per $200,000 of a home’s market value beginning in 2009 when some older bonds retire, but land purchases would stop and public access improvements would significantly slow down. I know that the economy is bad but $24 is such a small price to pay for new and improved Forest Preserve facilities.

But how will the money be used? About $148 million of the funds would be used to expand existing preserves and create new preserves, and about $37 million would be used to complete additional regional and preserve trails, restore more habitats for endangered wildlife and plants, improve educational, historical and cultural facilities, and renovate exisiting preserves and facilities.

More than 10,000 acres of priority lands are being evaluated for potential purchase and protection. Referendum funds would preserve up to 3,000 acres of these open spaces and natural areas.
Lake County residents who completed a survey earlier this year, stated that they wanted all the things the $37 million would fund.

Since voters overwhelmingly approved Forest preserve bonds in 1999 and 2000, the Forest Preserve has made good use of those funds: Nearly 6,000 acres, including 16 new preserves, have been protected; more than 50 miles of trail have been added; 10 more existing preserves were opened to public access; thousands of acres of wildlife habitat have been restored.

Following is the question that will appear on your ballot tomorrow:

Shall the Lake County Forest Preserve District, Lake County, Illinois borrow money and issue bonds to acquire and improve forest preserve lands in order to preserve and restore wildlife habitats, trail and greenway corridors, wetlands, prairies and forests; to provide flood control; and to create and improve public use areas for recreation, education and historic facilities in an amount not to exceed $185,000,000?

Lake County has some of the best forest preserves in the country. Get out and enjoy nature in any of the 26,800 acres available to you. Mom worked for the Forest Preserve over the summer and prior to that she regularly visited many of them. She has seen first hand the beauty in the forest preserves and the hard work that is being done to preserve species in danger. Through education and hard work, our forest preserves teach young and old alike to love and preserve nature.

Please vote YES for yourself, your neighbors, and for the future.

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