News and stuff about Lake Forest and Lake Bluff

Can Better Signage Save Lives At West Lake Forest Depot?

A Metra arrives at the west Lake Forest train station on Telegraph Road.

A Metra arrives at the west Lake Forest train station on Telegraph Road.

By Adrienne Fawcett

Metra’s top brass was in Lake Forest for a meet and greet with the Men’s Club at Dickenson Hall on Thursday. Most of the presentation by CEO Donald Orseno, board Chairman Martin Oberman and board member Norm Carlson focused on Metra’s financial issues, but many of the guests were interested in something else: Is anything being done to enhance safety at the west Lake Forest Metra station? The depot has been the site of five of the 12 pedestrian deaths that have occurred in Lake Forest since 2003. All but one were determined to be accidental.

“There’s no funding for a tunnel,” said Mr. Carlson, when asked about the potential for a pedestrian underpass.

Metra provided $3.7 million for a pedestrian underpass that is under construction in Lombard, and Union Pacific Railroad is covering $3.3 million of the estimated $8.1 million expense.

If a tunnel can be funded in Lombard, why not in Lake Forest? Lake Forest has the 2nd highest pedestrian railroad fatality rate per capita in the Chicago metropolitan area, tied with Villa Park and second only to Barrington, according to research by Northwestern University economics professor Ian Savage.

Metra Board Chairman Oberman said Lombard’s underpass was years in the making and driven largely by Union Pacific Railroad. Canadian Pacific travels through west Lake Forest on the Milwaukee District Line and has not expressed an interest in funding a tunnel.  Metra has no money for such a project, Mr. Oberman said, echoing his colleague.

An Amtrak spokesman earlier this week told GazeboNews that Amtrak has “no plans at all to stop in Lake Forest.”

What about signs? Can signage at the west Lake Forest depot be improved to make it clear where to go and that the station has dangerous dynamics?

As it is now, signage is scarce. For example:

  1. There are no signs to indicate that high-speed Amtrak and Canadian Pacific trains go thru the station without stopping. Prior to the start of Thursday’s meeting, one of the attendees who lives close to the west Lake Forest station mentioned a dangerous scenario she has seen at the station countless times: as a Metra train approaches, an announcement is broadcast to the platform identifying the incoming Metra train. As riders look in one direction to see the Metra train, they are unaware and uninformed that another train – Amtrak at times – is approaching from the other direction at 70 miles per hour and will pass thru the station without stopping.
  2. There are no signs across from the station or on the station itself indicating direction. The only signs that indicate direction are two standard platform signs that say “Lake Forest” and they are 100 yards apart from each other and basically impossible to see from the platform outside the station. The sign at the south end of the platform is 35 yards from the station; the sign to the north is 65 yards from the station at the pedestrian crossing.
  3. The Metra schedule on the station’s exterior wall shows Chicago as the southbound destination and Fox Lake as the northern destination. But on the platform, Fox Lake isn’t on any sign. This is unusual and a possible source of confusion for travelers unfamiliar with the station. Most railroad companies indicate direction by posting the endpoints of the line.
  4. The only directional cues at the west Lake Forest station are 3-inch subheads on the standard Metra signs that say “To Chicago” with an arrow pointing south, and “From Chicago” with an arrow pointing north.
  5. Even the orientation of the Metra map is confusing: When you are facing the Metra schedule (which is located on the exterior of the station wall, behind a plexiglass frame), the Chicago stop is on your right. But the actual city is to your left. If you are not from here, how do you know that?
  6. There are no signs anywhere that say tracks might switch and point trains in the opposite direction from their regular route.


A Celebration of Life for Murray Michelsen

Submitted by the Lake Bluff Police Department


Murray Michelsen

Murray Michelsen when he was on staff at the LBPD

The family and friends of Murray Michelsen are planning a Celebration of Life Service on Saturday, Sept. 20, for the retired Lake Bluff Police Sergeant who passed away on August 30 in Michigan. He was 65.

Lake Bluff Police Chief David Belmonte said: “Murray was one of those people you meet in your life that you instantly like. His caring and helping attitude touched everyone he met, and made his a great police officer, community member, and friend.”

Sgt. Michelsen served on the Lake Bluff Police Department from 1971 to 1999. During that time he rose to the rank of Sergeant and was third in command of the department. His career was filled with many accomplishments and commendations for life saving and successful investigations. Belmonte, who worked with Sgt. Michelsen from 1989-1999, said he remembers him as a person who would take on any project. “His concern was always Lake Bluff; what was best for the community. If it needed to be done, he would do it. He truly loved the Village.”

Sgt. Michelsen received the Department’s Award of Valor in 1980 for his rescue of a man from a burning car. Sgt. Michelsen and another patrol officer entered the car and pulled the driver to safety. He was recognized again in 1984 after a successful investigation of a string of burglaries in Highwood, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff resulted in the arrest of the suspect by Sgt. Michelsen in Lake Bluff. A month later, Sgt. Michelsen spotted and arrested four armed suspects for a home invasion.

He also started the Lake Bluff Police Department’s holiday charity efforts. This started with the Food Drive, which became so successful it would fill the entire police garage bays with canned food.

“I remember it became so large, we had to rent two large moving trucks to haul all the food to the pantry, “ Belmonte said. The food drive evolved over the years, and is now the department works with the Marine Corps for the Toys for Tots program. “Murray was very proud of the charity work we did, and giving back to the community.”

Toward the end of his career in Lake Bluff, Sgt. Michelsen was assigned the responsibility to coordinate the Lake Bluff Police Department’s efforts to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies. He conducted policy reviews, document preparation and in 1998 the Lake Bluff Police Department became the smallest agency to accredited by the Commission. This year, the Police Department received their sixth award of accreditation.

Outside of the Police Department, Murray was a founding member of the Vliet Museum of Lake Bluff History. He also coordinated the framing and hanging of all the pictures of past village presidents at the Lake Bluff Village Hall, as well as collecting the names of all the past members of the Lake Bluff Police Department since its creation.

The service will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18 at the Lake Bluff Middle School gymnasium. The public is welcome to attend.


LFHS Mourns Loss of Jim Gantt

Lake Forest High School students and staff learned sad news that Jim Gantt, chair of the social studies department, died of natural causes on Wednesday, Sept. 17. LFHS Principal Barry Rodgers sent the following note to parents on Wednesday afternoon:

Dear LFHS Families,

It is with extreme sadness that I share with you that Jim Gantt, our Social Studies Department Chair, passed away today, apparently due to natural causes. Jim was an exceptional educator, leader and valued member of our faculty for many years. He will be dearly missed.

Once Jim’s family was notified, we wanted you to have the information so you could process the loss as a family. As our school community grieves, we will provide support to our students and staff. Tomorrow, social workers and counselors will meet specifically with students in Mr. Gantt’s classes. Throughout the week, we will have social workers and counselors available if your child needs to talk to someone. Please inform your child that he or she is welcome anytime in the social workers’ conference room (160J) on the first floor.

For additional information on how to best support teens during times of grief, I have included the following resource:

We send our deepest sympathies to Jim’s family as the LFHS school community mourns this loss.


Barry Rodgers, principal

Winter Coats for Kids: Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Rotary Steps In To Help

Submitted by the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Rotary Club

Operation Warm in action

Operation Warm in action

Continuing its tradition of community service, the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Rotary Club plans to distribute new winter coats to needy children through the North Chicago School District, Foss Park District in North Chicago, and the Nuestro Center in Highwood. Over the past five years, the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Rotary Club has distributed more than 2,000 new winter coats to children in need in these communities.

A winter coat is an essential item in Illinois winters. A coat provides more than just warmth; it makes it easier for children to attend school, where they receive not just an education but hot meals. A new coat provides the added benefit of increasing self-esteem – who doesn’t like getting new things?

The Rotary Club is working with Operation Warm, Inc., a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to distributing high-quality, new winter coats to children who need coats. To date, Operation Warm has distributed more than 1.4 million new winter coats to children throughout America. The Rotary Club acquires coats at wholesale – like prices – less than $20 per coat – from Operation Warm’s inventory.

Area residents are invited to help the Rotary Club with this project by donating on the Rotary Club’s website at or contacting David Schafer at 847-234-5000, ext. 5410.

The Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Rotary Club meets Wednesday mornings at 7:15 at the Lake Forest Club for breakfast and a guest speaker. Membership is open to service-oriented residents and workers in the area. Guests are welcome to attend. Rotary connects leaders to exchange ideas and take action to solve problems in our community and the world. Club projects include local, national, and international humanitarian efforts. To learn more about the Club and its programs, visit

A Local Take On Scottish Independence

Editor’s note: When we were looking for local angles to the Scottish Independence issue, I remembered a perfect source: Ingrid Lustig, Lake Forest High School Class of 2013, who is a sophomore at University of St. Andrews near Edinburgh. Ingrid asked some of her friends how they feel about the issue — here are some quotes. She also shared photos of the Yes/No signs and posters around campus.

“Looking at economics, we get more money from Westminster than we give. There’s no point in basing the economic plan on oil because they doing know how much there is. Besides, England still has the right to tap “Scottish” oil because they’re on the North Sea as well. It’s not going to happen.”
– Charlie, Edinburgh (in the photo below)


Charlie, Edinburgh

Charlie, Edinburgh

“Scotland joined with England in 1788 because it was sinking economically and asked England to give some support. This put England in a position of power, so for almost 250 years, Scotland has felt like the smaller man under England’s stare. Scotland has felt like the minority ever since its union with England, and now is the time for Scotland to break from the oppression.”
– Julien, Germany

“I’m voting no. I think it’s quite a scary prospect. On a personal perspective, I was born in England, I have lots of family there, and I feel just as British as I do Scottish. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive and I don’t want that part of my identity taken away. But from a political perspective, I think the situation now is the best of both worlds in that we have autonomy in areas like health care and education, which matter to the Scottish people, but have the security of belonging to a strong currency union and a powerful diplomatic presence.”
– Anna, Glasgow

“As an American with UK citizenship, I’m worried because I don’t want my citizenship to become more exclusive if Scotland splits. The limitation of solely being a Scottish citizen would really limit my job opportunities; a huge number of St Andrews grads work in London after university, and that would be much harder for me.”
– Isla, Boston


Photos by Ingrid Lustig

Photos by Ingrid Lustig





Seeking Candidates for Lake Bluff Village Board and Library Board

Submitted by VOTE Lake Bluff

Are you interested in serving on the Lake Bluff Village or Library boards? The VOTE (Voters Organized To Elect) Lake Bluff organizing committee is seeking candidates for the April 2015 elections for Village and Library trustees. VOTE is the organization that assists village residents with learning about the election process, building awareness in the community and assisting endorsed candidates with filing official paperwork.

We invite you to visit the VOTE Lake Bluff website at to learn more about the election process. Please also feel free to call VOTE co-chairs Jim Gillen (847-682-0877) or Ed Duffy (224-456-9247) to ask questions or express interest in running.

Serving as a trustee for the Village or Library Boards enables you to apply your skills, talents and relationships to sustain and improve the community. Please get in touch today.

Support for Stonebridge: A Restaurant Owner’s Perspective

Editor’s note: This Reader Forum article was submitted by John des Rosiers, Chef/Proprietor of Inovasi, Wisma and The Other Door in Lake Bluff. Reader Forum articles represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of GazeboNews. We encourage you to comment on this article, but please include your full name per the GazeboNews comments policy.

GazeboNews Reader Forum

By John des Rosiers

As the Chef/Proprietor of three businesses in Lake Bluff I would like to take a moment to give my thoughts on the project under consideration at Stonebridge. I believe that the development is a positive addition to our community, as we rarely have the opportunity to welcome new citizens. Our residential land is limited and will not have the chance to expand, so this is a positive way for us to grow.

These homes will provide short-term jobs and economic revenue from the initial development, and the new residents will provide additional revenue from taxes and increased spending in our business community. Once approved, this project would continue the growth that Lake Bluff has seen over the past five years, and I believe that this project will contribute to an even greater and vibrant Village, restaurants, and every type of retailer we enjoy.

The Stonebridge project offers us greater tax revenues from both the standard real estate tax paid and also the increased local spending by the new residents.

I think the plan for the homes at Stonebridge is well thought-out and the best chance to develop the land. It is always vital for every community to find ways to grow, and this represents one of the rare opportunities we will have to add population.

It is my hope that you will pass the needed Village permits, etc. as I believe that this development should finally be allowed to move forward, and I look forward to welcoming these new citizens to our community.

Lake Forest Police Boosting Patrols At Railraod Tracks

A northbound Metra arrives at the west Lake Forest depot on July 1.

A northbound Metra arrives at the west Lake Forest depot on July 1.

By Adrienne Fawcett

The Lake Forest Police Department is increasing enforcement details from Sept. 14-20 at both the east- and west-side train stations to coincide with Illinois Rail Safety Week. Officers are citing pedestrians who disobey laws associated with railroad grade crossings and railroad property. This includes people crossing tracks while warning bells and lights are activated, people walking on tracks or crossing at points other than established crossings, and drivers and cyclists racing to beat lowering railroad gates.

This is a serious issue in Lake Forest, which has the 2nd highest pedestrian railroad fatality rate per capita in the Chicago metropolitan area. The city is tied with Villa Park and second only to Barrington, according to research by Northwestern University economics professor Ian Savage.

Ticketing people who violate railroad rules does help reduce violations, said Chip Pew of the Illinois Commerce Commission and the state’s Operation Lifesaver organization. “There are a number of communities that routinely and systematically enforce RR safety laws and have quantifiable proof showing that writing tickets (even a small number of them) can alter behavior and as a result have fewer violations,” he said.

There are many signs in place telling people “Do not cross when bells and lights are activated” but these are ineffective, he said, adding that “Metra is working on language that would play periodically throughout the day over their station announcement system that would let riders/commuters know that ‘it is a violation of state law to cross RR tacks when the bells and lights are activated.’”

Statewide during 2013, there were 52 trespasser incidents that resulted in 27 injuries and 25 fatalities when people trespassed on railroad property. During 2013, Illinois ranked 3rd in the nation in both vehicle collision fatalities and trespasser fatalities.

Illinois Operation Lifesaver reports that more than 50% of all collisions occur at crossings with active warning devices (flashing lights, gates, and ringing bells) — which is the case for the majority of fatalities at the west Lake Forest train station in recent years. Statewide and locally, many of the accidents can be attributed to fatigue and distractions such as earbuds, texting or reading near the tracks.

Just what are the railroad laws in Illinois?

Pew provided this summary:

5/11-1011- Basically states that if is against statute or a violation of the law to walk around or under a RR crossing gate that is down or to cross the tracks at a station platform when the lights and bells are o.n … These devices are there to tell people that a train is coming and upon activation could be at the crossing or platform in as little as 20 seconds. People would be subject to a $250 fine if found guilty.

5/11-1201- A driver would be violating the law if the drive around, through or under a lowered crossing gate. They would be subject to a $250 fine if found guilty.

5/18-7503- Deals with trespassers: People can cross tracks only at public streets and “authorized crossings” like station platforms. People walking on or along railroad tracks other than these locations would be subject to a trespassing citation with a $150 fine. 

For more information about Illinois Rail Safety Week, please visit

For more information about incidents at Lake Forest stations over the past 11 years, please read these articles from the GazeboNews:

Fall Into Elegance At Lake Forest Preservation Foundation House & Garden Walk

Submitted by the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation

The Lake Forest Preservation Foundation’s annual House and Garden Walk is fast approaching and will offer a front-row view of 1920s chic to the latest in traditional architectural and design high style.  This is the Foundation’s main benefit and helps to fund local preservation projects.

The tour include four neighboring houses and five gardens, the last for a reception.  The walk takes place from 1 to 3:30 p.m., with a reception following from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 27. Please visit the Foundation’s website,, or call the office at 847-234-1230 to make reservations or receive more information.

Foundation President Gail Hodges takes pride in Lake Forest’s record in preserving and playing forward “what makes Lake Forest unique in the nation” — its remarkable legacy of preserved and protected architecture in a context of well-planned landscape openness. This year’s Benefit Walk highlights those relationships and celebrates early 20th Century planning innovations that were in the vanguard of national trends.

The four houses range from a Cotswold cottage for a descendant of President John Adams married to a member of the 1922 Princeton undefeated football “Team of Destiny” to a David Adler designed jewel box rarely seen and its next-door 1950s classic Cape Cod being renovated in the best new traditional style. Besides Adler, other architects include former Howard Shaw associates Stanley D. Anderson and Ralph Milman. Gardens include an elegant new classic pool house by a sought-after young architect, a Mariani-stewardship Art Deco garden, and a forested meadow in the manner of Simonds and Jensen.

The Preservation’s annual fall benefit House and Garden Walk continues a tradition for the 1976-founded Lake Forest organization of raising funds for its all-local projects, such as last year’s support for restoration of the Castlegate entry walls on Waukegan Road and recent stewardship help for restoring the beautiful east train station — Market Square’s fourth side.

All of the Preservation Foundation’s other programs during the year—lectures, garden strolls, events at historic homes, etc. — are provided at event cost only or are free; see and check regularly:

The Preservation Foundation is a membership organization focused on preserving and appreciating the historic visual character of Lake Forest.

What Does Common Core Have To Do With My Kids?

Submitted by Lake Forest School District 67

Do you have questions about the Common Core in public education? Here’s an opportunity to learn more about it as the League of Women Voters of Lake Forest/Lake Bluff area hosts a meeting with Michael Simeck, superintendent of Lake Forest School Districts 67 and 115, and Kevin Rubenstein, director of curriculum for Lake Bluff School District 65.

 “Common Core and Conversation.”

Saturday, September 20, 2014
4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Re-invent Gallery
202 E. Wisconsin Avenue
Lake Forest, Illinois

This program is complimentary and open to the public. Enjoy wine, cheese, and canapés, courtesy of Fresh Market. Please make reservation at www.LWV-LFLB.ORG by September 19.

Sponsored by: League of Women Voters – Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area