Old Duchossois farm near Barrington sold for $10 million for restoration by conservation group – Chicago Tribune


Kathleen Leitner, president of Citizens for Conservation, at Hill ‘N Dale Farm South on Aug. 31, 2022, near Barrington. The group plans to restore the area to prairie, wetland and savannah. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
As a blue heron took flight from a pond on a horse farm, Kathleen Leitner described a grand vision for restoring the rolling prairie to its native habitat.
As president of the Citizens for Conservation, Leitner’s group this week closed a $10 million deal to buy the 246-acre horse farm that belonged to the late Dick Duchossois, the former owner of Arlington International Racecourse.
Duchossois died earlier this year at 100. The Duchossois Group that he founded agreed to sell the southern part of Hill ‘N Dale Farm on the condition that it be permanently protected and restored as open space.
Kathleen Leitner, president of Citizens for Conservation, stands outside at Hill ‘N Dale Farm South on Aug. 31, 2022, near Barrington. Citizens for Conservation recently purchased the 246-acre horse farm of the late Richard Duchossois, former owner of Arlington Park, for $10 million. The group plans to restore the area to prairie, wetland and savanna. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
The site, at Lake-Cook and Ridge roads near Barrington Hills, will retain its signature white-fence border, but will be restored to prairie, wetlands and savanna.
“Our goal is to create contiguous pathways for native plants and birds and animals,” Leitner said.
While many decisions have yet to be made by the conservation group’s board, Leitner said, the site won’t typically be open for public access, but will be accessible to volunteers helping to restore it.
The Duchossois family had once operated the top breeding facility in the state at the former dairy farm, training thoroughbreds on a racetrack there. Community members looked forward to seeing the new foals grazing on the pasture every spring, and there were even buffalo on site. But the animals were transferred elsewhere in recent years, and the property is now largely vacant.
Duchossois’ daughter, Kim Duchossois, said that her father had given his blessing for the sale before he passed away. She added that local family members would donate some of the proceeds from the sale back to the conservation group.
“I’m overjoyed,” she said. “The farm couldn’t be in better hands for the community, and for our family to know it will be kept open space in perpetuity.”
The northern part of the farm, where Dick Duchossois lived, will remain in the family.
A great blue heron flies over an overgrown practice track on the southern part of Hill ‘N Dale Farm, soon to be renamed Hill ’N Dale Preserve, on Aug. 31, 2022. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
Noting that her daughters had once ridden horses on the land, Kim Duchossois hoped that public riding and walking trails might someday be put on the property, but that will be decided by the conservation group.
For now, the site is mostly grassy pasture. It includes a 4,000-foot stretch of Spring Creek, which flows into the next-door Spring Lake Forest Preserve, forming a continuous green corridor that’s home to wetland birds, fish, deer, coyote and numerous other wildlife.
Citizens for Conservation plans to plant more than 350 native species including oak and hickory trees, grasses, prairie dropseed, purple prairie clover, little bluestem, and many varieties of milkweeds. That should help bring back more grassland sparrows and endangered monarch butterflies and rusty-patched bumblebees.
The group has 13 other sites totaling more than 500 acres, so this is by far its largest acquisition.
Kathleen Leitner, president of Citizens for Conservation, stands in Hill ‘N Dale Farm South on Aug. 31, 2022. The Duchossois Group agreed to sell the southern part of Hill ‘N Dale Farm on the condition that it be permanently protected and restored as open space. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
Initial funding for the purchase came through a $4.9 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. Citizens for Conservation is seeking an additional $5 million to supplement the purchase, and to restore and manage the site.
The first step will be to conduct a hydrology study and remove drainage pipes to restore wetlands in low-lying areas.
The group will likely keep some buildings on the property such as Duchossois’ former office. A number of other buildings on-site, including a barn and machine shop, lie on 19 acres that may eventually be sold while retaining a conservation easement.
Copyright © 2022, Chicago Tribune
Copyright © 2022, Chicago Tribune

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