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Settler's Hill project still advancing; bike, running trails in the works

GENEVA – The plan to transform the Settler’s Hill landfill into a regional
outdoor playground continues to move forward, even if it’s not highly visible to the public just yet, county officials said.

“I call this a ‘whale-watching’ project,” said County Board member Mike Donahue, R-Geneva. “Like a whale, it pops up above the surface every now and again, everyone oohs and aahs, and then it goes down below again, and everyone wonders where it went.

“I’m here to inform you that the whale is alive and well, healthy and moving forward.”

Donahue said county planners are in the first phases of designing the planned recreational trails and a crosscountry running trail.

He said an initial report indicates that even designing the trails will be difficult, as the county would be prohibited from “cutting into the landform” in any way.

“It’s not as simple as some might think because we’re still on a landfill there,” Donahue said. “This wasn’t unanticipated, but we’re in the process of identifying and quantifying what’s involved with this.”

He said county officials also are meeting with representatives of Waste Management, which operates the landfill and must sign off on what happens there.

To date, Donahue said Settler’s Hill planners have noted Waste Management’s concerns and “they’ve been all dealt with favorably.”

The Settler’s Hill project had been the subject of discussion and debate for more than a year in 2011 and 2012. Supporters of the project believe the plan will guide redevelopment of the landfill from an eyesore to an amenity for the Tri-Cities.

The project’s master plan, which was approved in October, calls for the creation of the trails, as well as a hilltop observatory, a winter recreation area, golf course and an outdoor music venue along Kirk Road. 

Donahue said the county intends to tackle the project one piece at a time, beginning with the elements that have the most public support.

That approach had been endorsed by Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen.

County officials have said the project will be paid for by landfill fees paid by waste haulers during the years Settler’s Hill was an active landfill, and held by the county in a special fund specifically dedicated to restoring the site to public use.

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