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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. 
  • jeff August 09, 2012 at 02:39 AM
    They should put in the piers and have the ice skating and a building people can rent out for conferences,weddings, birthdays etc and that way they can get some revenue year round. People will go there to fish off the piers as well and maybe they could also rent canoes,kayaks etc or at least have a nice area where people could launch there own.
    Mrs. Adams August 09, 2012 at 11:33 AM
    My concern is traffic in the area for the residents. Ice skating and rental for conferences, fishing and play area, include a dog park, a place to get dirty and picnic area, link to bike path and trails to walk. Nothing that would bring in NOISE, or huge crowds. Open access with monitoring 24/7. No weddings.
    Marco August 09, 2012 at 01:00 PM
    BRING BACK THE FOX TRAILS SWIM AND TENNIS CLUB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Look it up on facebook - It was absolutely an unbelievable place to grow up!
    Brian Grabowski August 09, 2012 at 02:43 PM
    What an incredible resource for the community! Whatever "we" do I hope it is preserved for the natural beauty that it is. Piers may disrupt some of this though, I can understand that would increase public access/use. This is exciting in any case, thanks to MCC!!!
    Paul McFadden August 09, 2012 at 04:36 PM
    Brian is right ... piers in the wrong place would disrupt the natural beauty of the Fox Bluff shoreline. I have uploaded a photo (more to follow later) of one section of that shoreline which begins a few hundred feet below the present picnic table area of the park. If piers have to be put in, I would hope that would happen in the picnic table area. Paul McFadden
    Nick August 09, 2012 at 11:13 PM
    Before they tear down the buildings they need to lease the property to a Hollywood movie company and make another Friday the 13th type film. Then keep what ever buildings are useable and tear down the rest. At first thought a boat or kayak launch sounds good but the county would have to post and enforce a speed restriction for this stretch of river, it is crazy out there and is not safe for any small water craft. On second thought why doesn't the county make the Fox Waterway Agency post and enforce some restrictions to improve water safety on this lower section of the fox river.
    Jerry Erickson August 10, 2012 at 04:52 PM
    There is building called the 'REC HALL" that was scheduled for demolition in the 1980's. Then it was seen as something of interest to preservationists. Architect Stanley Tigerman was retained to make plans to retain the building and, I believe, to add to it to meet needs of the camp at that time. The Rec Hall would be a terrific place for the historic museum.

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