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Toboggan slides to fall
Hill at Swallow Cliff to be reworked for sledding

Thursday, October 04, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Nathaniel Zimmer, Staff Writer

Cook County Forest Preserve District commissioners voted Wednesday to tear down the toboggan slides at Swallow Cliff and regrade the hill there to allow for sledding, saying it would cost too much to repair the beloved winter attraction.
Slides at three other forest preserves would be removed as a result of the decision, which came over the objections of two south suburban commissioners.
At Swallow Cliff in Palos Township, generations of kids plummeted down a half-dozen 800- to 900-foot-long chutes at speeds of up to 50 mph.
Though they were allowed to fall into disrepair and eventually closed in 2004, the slides were popular. In February of that year, some 6,000 people showed up to use them one weekend. But even when they were in good condition, the slides were open infrequently because they required at least 4 inches of snow and temperatures of 25 degrees or lower.
The vote by the district's real estate committee, which is made up of the members of the Cook County Board, was 10 to 4, with Commissioners Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood) and Elizabeth Doody Gorman, (R-Orland Park) in the minority.
Murphy's children grew up going to Swallow Cliff, she said, and she had "too much of a sentimental feeling for the toboggan slides" to favor getting rid of them.
But supporters of removing the slides said the estimated $4 million tab to rebuild them at all four sites was too steep and that despite repeated efforts to attract a private operator to take over the slides, no one had emerged with a viable plan.
In comments that were echoed by others, Commissioner Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park) said unless they were done away with, the shuttered slides would continue to offer the public a symbol of government failure.
Removing the district's remaining toboggan slides will cost an estimated $900,000. The hill at Swallow Cliff is too steep for normal sledding, according to district officials. Softening the incline would cost about $400,000.
After the vote, forest preserve spokesman Steve Mayberry said there is money in the current year's budget to take out slides at Deer Grove in Palatine and Bemis Woods in Western Springs. Given the board's decision, he said, the expected money would be included in next year's capital budget to both remove the Swallow Cliff slides and regrade the hill to allow for sledding.
But before casting his "no" vote, Commissioner Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago) said he feared that once the slides are removed, the sites would be allowed to languish in an unimproved state.
The district did receive one response to its request for proposals for the slides from a private operator. But the proposal by Zorb Chicago to provide zorbing, in which people roll down slides while strapped inside an inflatable ball, was roundly criticized by commissioners as sketchy and inadequate.


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