A First Look at Settler's Hill Cross Country Course Feasibility Study

A First Look at Settler’s Hill Cross Country Course Feasibility Study

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  • Part 1 in a Series

Is a cross country course at the Settler’s Hill site feasible? The answer to that question depends on your point of view, but now there’s a lot more information for Kane County Board members and Kane County residents to consider.

At Tuesday’s Development Committee meeting, representatives of Hunden Strategic Partners made a presentation on their recently released Settler’s Hill Cross-Country Course Market and Feasibility Study.

Here are two excellent documents you can look at to tell you more about the project:

The challenge of the project, in a nutshell, is that it will cost more to operate than can be recouped in revenue, according to Hunden’s preliminary findings. Kane County Board members will have to decide in coming weeks whether the overall value to the community outweighs the potential expense.

Here’s part of the Executive Summary, as provided by Hunden Strategic Partners:


Kane County, in collaboration with the Kane County Forest Preserve District, engaged Hunden Strategic Partners to study the market forces upon, and the financial projections of, a new cross-country course on the now closed Settler’s Hill landfill. HSP was also requested to recommend the best strategies to maximize us age and minimize the potential for financial losses. This research included the local, regional and national cross-country usage and events, the local market supply and demand for courses and event types, and existing conditions on site.

The new facility will be located directly west of the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark and adjacent to the existing Settler’s Hill Golf Course. The effort and course should put it in a position to attract local users as well as visitors regional and potentially national to Kane County for events.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 10.16.30 PMHunden Strategic Partners identified and studied examples of cross-country facilities that could be considered regional competitors, and facilities that would likely not be competitive but are similar or exemplary from around the nation.

The findings include the conclusion that there is demand for dedicated cross-country course and not many ideal sites in the region of more than 20 million people. However, give the economics and supply/demand issues surrounding cross-country, it is not likely that this use, by itself, will be financially sustainable without participation from entities outside of the specific cross-country operations. However, there will be economic, fiscal and other impacts from those coming to Kane County to utilize the co urse and use hotels, restaurants and shops in the area.

Today, cross-country is run in parks, golf courses, farmlands, and other topographic settings. There has been a recent effort to construct courses that are designed with the sole purpose of cross-country racing. Also, many unique and great courses have been incorporated into multiuse spaces, such as historic parks or farmland, designed or reconstructed with cross-country in mind. Unfortunately, there has also been a trend that has led the sport of cross-country to suffer.

This is the adaptation of cross country racing onto extremely transformed and confined terrain nearly entirely reconstructed by man, specifically golf courses. Courses such as LaVern Gibson in Terre Haute, Indiana and Rim Rock Farm in Kansas have been designed specifically for cross-country racing. All provide a matchless cross-country experience and are excellent examples of cross-country courses by design. Each of these provides a unique experience and are not built onto excessively refined, man-altered terrain.

Another important part of cross-country is the human element: coaches and spectators. Given the opportunity to design land for the sport of cross-country, each group can be considered and designed for. Spectators should be afforded spaces to view lengthy and interesting segments of the race along and be provided the conveniences of quality facilities and parking. Bleachers, video boards, and updated timing scores can be provided for the spectators if the land is used solely for cross-country. Permanent features and improvements can be developed without creating conflicts with other uses if the site can be designed solely for the sport of cross-country. Also advantageous to land dedicated to cross-country is the ability to design and maintain the terrain and surfacing specific to the sport

Overall, designing for the athlete, which provides safety, well defined routing and proper carrying capacity, an accomplished sense of place, advanced technologies and facilities, sport appropriate and safe footing and reasonable terrain, and spectator engagement would considerably improve the attractiveness of Settler’s Hill. Courses that are able to accommodate many different distances, various levels of athletic prowess, and remain unique are remembered and will be utilized.

Kane County’s leaders realize that a community amenity such as the Settler’s Hill Cross-Country Course is valuable to the county at many levels, and is rarely profitable when serving the community at rates affordable to a majority of users. As such, a small portion of the operating costs may be subsidized by local tax base to help fund the cost of operation.

So long as the stakeholders establish a clear strategy and realistic vision for the Settler’s Hill course, whether it is a recreational site or an event driven site, the repurposing of Settler’s Hill will be an opportunity missed if the County foregoes the chance to meet this demand. The chance to develop a facility like the proposed Settler’s Hill Cross-Country Course is an opportunity not many counties are privileged to consider. The prospect of meeting and growing this community’s athletic demand while at the same time helping to induce economic activity to the county is an exciting step for Kane County’s place in the larger regional consciousness.

Project Profile

Kane County, (County) has proposed a strategic plan to redevelop the Settler’s Hill Landfill that was closed in 2006. The proposed Project has stakeholders, all of whom will approve the final design of the Project. The site is owned by the County and operated by Waste Management of Illinois, Inc. The master plan for the 700-acre complex, which includes both the Settler’s Hill and Midway Landfills, was developed by Kane County in conjunction with the Kane County Forest Preserve District.

The stakeholders prefer to see the site divided into 90 percent passive and 10 percent active uses. Waste Management of Illinois, as the operator is responsible for the operations, maintenance and environmental management of the closed landfill. The approval of Waste Management of Illinois is required for every major phase of the cross-country facility design and permitting. The Kane County Forest Preserve District is partnering with Kane County on the Master Plan and will approve the final design of the trail system.

Until 2006 the site was the location of the Settler’s Hill and Midway Landfills. However, even with the closure of the landfill, Waste Management is still the primary operator of the site and is legally liable during its post-closure care period, which runs through 2037, at a minimum for the site until 2037.

While the plans for the project are not finalized, the current master plan proposes the following:

  • Modify the first hole of the Settler’s Hill Golf Course to be a driving range.
  • Convert Hole 17 of the golf course into two holes.
  • Reconfigure the course to obtain returning nine holes on the golf course.
  • Possible incorporation of par three instructor holes.
  • Development of arena: Rivers Edge outdoor event facility.


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