PHOTO STORY: The Spectacular View From Top of Settler's Hill

PHOTO STORY: The Spectacular View From Top of Settler’s Hill

  • Part 2 in a Series.

The decision of whether to build a $3.8 million competitive cross-country facility on the Settler’s Hill Landfill site is up to Kane County Board members, and the pro’s and cons of the cost versus the public benefit will be weighed, measured and debated in the coming weeks and months.

But regardless of what final decisions are made, it’s easy to understand why Kane County might want to make use of that space — the view, frankly, is spectacular, and its topography would make it an almost one-of-a-kind venue for cross-country spectators.

First, a little about the view. Kane County Water & Environmental Director Ken Anderson was kind enough to take me along on a recent tour of the highest point of the landfill, which would be the highest topographical point of the proposed cross-country course. Along with us were Resource Management Coordinator Cecilia Govrik and Water Resources Engineer Monica Hawk.

I think some of the photos I took (presented in this slide show) are OK, but no camera can really capture the full panoramic view or the experience of being at the summit.

On a clear day, you can see the Willis Tower and several other buildings in Chicago. A trained eye can spot just about every landmark in Kane County.

As you can see in the slideshow (hopefully — I’m not enamored with the WordPress slideshow functionality), there are a number of native plants growing on the former landfill site, including milkweed, an important plant because it is the only food source for Monarch caterpillars. Many other species of insects use milkweed as their primary food source, or as a major food source.

As Anderson explains it, a cross-country course would be configured in a series of loops around that top level of the hill, such that runners would not have to deal with steep inclines. The design, as presented, would allow for runs of various distances, from 2k to 10k. From a runner’s standpoint, it would be a spectacular setting for a race.

But what I learned on our little field trip is that one of the biggest advantages would be for spectators.

Typically, cross-country fans can see the start and finish of a race and perhaps one or two spots along the way, if they hustle from Point A to Point B to Point C. With a view from the summit, the spectators would be able to watch virtually the entire race and understand some of the drama, the lead changes and the pacing in ways that simply aren’t possible at other venues.

According to a report by Hunden Strategic Partners, the sight lines are a unique aspect of the course.

“A major part of the Settler’s Hill experience is watching the cross-country event,” the report says. “The overall experience of the event is affected by the sight lines that will be enhanced by the design and configuration of the course and the overall open hill. The superior views of the events on Settler’s Hill will enhance the attractiveness and potential revenue generating opportunities of such events.”

As the project now stands, the facility might be used by area high schools, colleges and universities, and the trails would be there for use by the general public.

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