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Openlands Lakeshore Preserve FAQ

May 27, 2022 — Openlands Lakeshore Preserve in Highland Park is currently closed to the public. Once part of the former Fort Sheridan Army base, the nature preserve opened to the public in 2011 under the ownership and management of Openlands, which is working cooperatively with the US Navy to resolve the closure.

Why is the Preserve closed?
In April 2021, visitors found a grenade and two flares that were safely detonated on-site by the Waukegan Bomb Squad. For the safety of all, Openlands closed the Preserve for an investigation by the Navy that is underway. 

Why be concerned about old military artifacts?Experts believe the items found in the Preserve were remnants from this site’s use as an Army base for over 100 years. The ravines, bluffs, beach, and lake presented opportunities to use a variety of munitions over time. Old munitions and related items are considered just as dangerous as they were when they were first made. Some munitions become more dangerous over time as their parts deteriorate. (Learn more:

Why is the investigation taking so long?Openlands and the Navy share the desire to complete this investigation in a timely, safe, and thorough manner. With steep bluffs and ravines, the site is complicated to investigate, and has a long history of various military uses. 

Is this connected to Openlands’ desire to install fencing along the blufftop?
In early 2021, Openlands proposed installing a fence along the blufftop to protect visitors and help stabilize the bluff, but Openlands shelved the plans due to initial public input. The bluffs have become steep and unstable due to natural erosion, which has recently accelerated because of fluctuating lake levels, record-breaking storms, and winters that are sometimes too warm to create a protective armor of ice. Fencing remains under consideration, though the Preserve’s closure is in no way connected to the 2021 proposal. 

Why not open just the paved trails?
The entire property is being investigated. Experience has shown that many visitors do not stay on the paved trails. 

What type of technology is being used? 
Trained investigators use their eyes to visually inspect the ground. In addition, an all metals detector helps find items that might be laying on top of the ground, but hidden under vegetation or partially covered with soil. 

Who is paying for the investigation? 
Having briefly acquired the property from the US Army before transferring it to Openlands, the US Navy is funding the investigation. 

Who owns and pays to operate the Preserve?Openlands is a 501c3 non-profit organization that owns and operates the Preserve. Openlands receives no taxpayer dollars to operate the Preserve. When the organization acquired the property from the US Navy, Openlands raised funds for the creation of the trails, restoration of the preserve, and art and interpretation that exists there today. Throughout the closure, Openlands has taken on additional costs to maintain fencing and signage. 

Why haven’t taxpayer-funded documents been released to the public?  Once finalized, documents related to the investigation will be released to the public and housed at a local public repository. A public meeting and website will also be offered to help communicate efforts and recommendations.  

For those that would like to receive updates on the closure, like this email, please visit