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Kane considers opening Settlers Hill to dirt loads for cross country trails

GENEVA – Kane County officials still want to build a regional cross country running venue on the Settlers Hill landfill. 

But to make it happen, they now believe the county will need a combination of dirt and money – and a lot of both.

Kane County Board member Mike Donahue, R-Geneva, chairman of the County Board’s Development Committee, on Wednesday said the county was examining the possibility of opening the closed landfill on Geneva’s east side to accept clean fill dirt from contractors working in Kane County.

Donahue said the move might be necessary to allow the project to move forward.

He said early engineering plans estimate the county could need 500,000 to 900,000 cubic yards of dirt to properly design the cross country trails and start/finish
area to create a venue that would be suitable for college cross country running events.

And Donahue said the county also could collect hundreds of thousands of dollars from the collection of the dirt, which then could be used
to help pay for the construction of the cross country course.

“This is a viable business model that has been in place for a very long time,” Donahue said. “Contractors dig up the dirt and need some place to put the fill, and another business gets paid to receive the fill and repurpose it.”

Donahue said initial figures estimate contractors moved about 1.1 million cubic yards of fill in Kane County last year.

As many of the county’s fill collection sites are on the county’s north end, he said he believes Settlers Hill would represent a closer alternative for contractors excavating in the county’s central and southern areas.

Donahue said without such “external revenue sources” the project as it is currently designed “may not be feasible.”

“All the earthwork has to pay for itself,” Donahue said.

County officials have discussed the Settlers Hill project for more than two years. Supporters of the project believe it will transform the former landfill from an eyesore to an amenity for the Tri-Cities.

The project’s master plan, which was approved last fall, 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.

The County Board since has decided to tackle the project one piece at a time, beginning with the cross country venue, which enjoys the most public support.

County officials have said much of the project will be paid for using landfill fees paid by waste haulers during the years Settlers Hill was an active landfill.

Those fees then were held by the county in a special fund specifically dedicated to restoring the site to public use.

Donahue said the county will not use that money for the earthwork for the cross country course.

He said the county will discuss with Waste Management in coming weeks the possibility of opening the landfill up to fill.

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