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Izaak Walton site lands safely in township hands



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Updated: April 23, 2013 1:37PM

ELGIN — The Elgin Izaak Walton League is running low on money, and its membership — once as high as 600 people — has dwindled to 85 active members.

The clubhouse, built by club members in 1939, sits at 899 Jay St. on the city’s near-southeast side. The building is on 11.3 undeveloped acres along Poplar Creek and costs the club about $21,000 a year to operate, with just $20,000 coming in, said Tom Stewart, president of the home corporation — the part of the club tasked with upkeep for the grounds and building.

Most of those funds come from renting the building to the Northern Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District for office space.

Across town, Hanover Township has been renting space at One American Way, off Summit Street, at a cost of $2,181 a month. The leased facility helps connect Elgin residents to their township and the services offered there, said Hanover Township Supervisor Brian McGuire

An offhand comment by Izaak Walton League president Bill Jones to McGuire last summer has led the club to turn over its building and grounds to the township.

In exchange, the club will continue to have its meetings at the building. Hanover Township, McGuire said, now has a rent-free building within the township for hosting many of its programs, and to expand those programs, too.

It is the definition of a win-win situation for both groups, officials said.

“Our committee that oversaw the grounds and the building had come to the conclusion that it would be difficult to keep the doors open,” Stewart said.

“Water, electric bills, and everything that goes with the building … was adding up to a point that it is tough to keep our heads above water.”

The building, which came close to burning down in the early 1990s after vandals lit a fire on one side of the structure, needs renovations and serious upkeep, he added.

Township ‘date’

Jones had reached out to McGuire, asking if the township could help the club with a project clearing debris from Poplar Creek. The “Ikes” building — the shorthand word for the Izaak Walton League — sits inside Hanover Township.

“Bill expressed … that ‘we are not even sure about how much longer we can be here,’  whether the club will even survive,” McGuire said.

He asked Jones if the club had considered donating the land and building to a government entity — and that “the township might be interested in being a steward of the property, if that is what the club wanted,” McGuire said.

“It was a quick comment at a meeting that came back and grew” into a plan, McGuire said. There was some discussion back and forth for a few months, as both sides thought about how serious they were about going forward with a property transfer.

“It was kind of like dating, when you are feeling each other out,” McGuire said.

As for the township board, “as long as it is what the league wants, we are in favor of it,” McGuire said.

The land was officially transferred last week, but with updates to the building needed and completing the lease on American Way, it will be June before the township officially moves operations to the building, McGuire said.

Upgrades include a new electronic key system and making the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, McGuire said.

At the end of the day, the township gets a building and land for ongoing and future programs, he said.

“We will no longer have lease payments, and we will put that money … into the property here. It also gives us our own space within the township, as opposed to renting. It takes a temporary outpost and makes it permanent.

“This is a gift from the Ikes to the residents of Hanover Township. You (the township) promise that we can have access to the building and you will continue to advance the issues that the Ikes are concerned about,” McGuire said.

“I see a lot of youth programming, as well as increased outreach to U46” as potential uses for the land that comes with the building,” he said.

McGuire would like to see a trail system developed in the eight acres across Poplar Creek, as well as camping spots for Scouting programs.

“The township is coming up with the overall use plan,” he said.

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