Timber Trails was a golf course. Then it became a housing development, and then somewhat of a boondoggle. Now, if the latest proposal for its undeveloped western half moves forward, it could in part become a golf course once again.
The idea to rebuild the western Unit II as a nine-hole course is being advanced by a group of southern Western Springs residents, who two weeks ago met with representatives from Jemsek Golf—the family business of the late “Patriarch of Chicago Golf,” Joe Jemsek, and the owners/operators of the Cog Hill facility in Lemont—where the company expressed significant interest in managing a Timber Trails course.
“We think it’d be a nice opportunity and a good fit for us,” said Jemsek Golf president Katherine Jemsek. “I think it would be a great addition to the community… If they’re able to secure the land, we’d be happy to run the nine holes.”
Architect Joe Jemsek (the “Patriarch’s” grandson) has even prepared a concept design for a 3000-yard, par-35 course, including a driving range, which can be seen above and to the right. (A new redesign might remove the driving range.) It runs alongside and over Flagg Creek, and is built atop what Katherine Jemsek called the “stronger nine” of the old Timber Trails course.
The leaders of the proposal are Western Springs residents Michelle Kosik and Arthur Poletti, back-to-back neighbors in Timber Trails and Ridgewood, respectively. The idea, they said, was largely born of horror at the concept offered by the group Openlands that Unit II be preserved as undeveloped green space.
(Sign up for Patch’s email newsletter and get all the top local headlines in your inbox each morning.)
Kosik and Poletti claim that forest preserves and open spaces are hotbeds for crime, drug abuse, sex cruising and prostitution, citing Bemis Woods as an example. The reality of close-to-home danger was made clear, they say, by the shocking October 2011 Kelli O’Laughlin murder that occurred just a few hundred yards south of Timber Trails.
“We are horrified that Openlands would be doing this and that the Village would be doing this,” Kosik said. “To impose this on a quiet residential neighborhood is terrifying to the mothers around here… It’s night and day the difference between putting open lands and a state-of-the-art golf course.”
For an alternative, they say, they have looked west to St. Charles, using the Pottawatomie Golf Course as a template. A Robert Trent Jones, Sr. municipal course set along the Fox River, Pottawatomie has been ranked the 15th best nine-holer in the nation by Golf World and, Poletti says, exemplifies what he hopes to bring to the Village.
“St. Charles thinks a whole lot of their nine-hole course,” Poletti said. “We want everybody to understand: this is going to help all of Western Springs… If they can be the pride of St. Charles, wouldn’t it be wonderful if this here became the pride of Western Springs?”
Ron Skubisz, course manager and head PGA pro at Pottawatomie, adds that nine-hole courses are appealing to new golfers, the young and the elderly and anyone looking for a quicker round. “You’re opening yourself up to a broader range of the golfing populace,” Skubisz said. “You need a golf course that’s more playable, with the possibility of fun from the beginning level up.”
Aside from avoiding the creation of open space, Kosik and Poletti say the course would save Timber Trails Unit I, dramatically increasing the value of the land and the homes on it and saving the equity of people (like Kosik) who bought houses that depreciated hugely when the development fizzled.
The next step for the hopefuls is where Openlands has gotten stuck: navigating the thorny process of acquiring the land, which is tied up by bond security and the specifics of the 2005 annexation agreement. With the Jemsek name attached, the hopefuls believe they can begin attracting investors and win over PNC Bank, who currently owns the property.
Poletti has sent a packet making their case to the bank, all Timber Trails residents and the Western Springs Board of Trustees and Village staff, containing a letter advocating the proposal, information about Pottawatomie and several pages of Google search results about crime and unsavory behavior in Bemis Woods and other forest preserves (like this 2010 incident, and this one.)
“We’re not going to go out waving our flag and bragging about what we’re doing,” Poletti said. “We’re just simply trying to get information and pass it along, and hopefully it develops into something.”