Canal Shores – an 18 hole course open to golfers of all ages and skill levels. RoundTable photo

With plans for renovating Canal Shores Golf Course on hold for the time being, a newly configured Canal Shores board is concentrating on implementing its master environmental plan. A $20,000 grant to Canal Shores from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will help the Canal Shores Golf Course Association create a framework to enhance the natural setting. To that end the association has engaged Planning Resources, Inc., to help create the master plan, which will include pocket parks, plant communities, buffer zones, and ways to manage stormwater.

The Golf Course
Canal Shores – the newest name for the golf course that meanders along the North Shore Channel in Evanston and Wilmette – is 100 years old this year, and enthusiasm remains strong for keeping this gem of a public course operating well into its second century. The City of Evanston and the Village of Wilmette lease the property from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. If not renewed, the lease will expire in May of 2032.

Far from being a sheltered course in an exclusive country club, Canal Shores – previously known as the Frank Govern Golf Course, and before that, the Peter Jans – offers golfers a chance to pay a modest fee to play 18 holes on narrow fairways and comparatively small greens – with the added challenge of navigating across five different sections of public streets.

At various times, Canal Shores’ youth program uses the holes in front of the clubhouse for clinics and training. During those times, golfers are asked to begin at the third hole and end their rounds on the clinic holes. Greens fees and private donations are the principal sources of income for the Evanston Wilmette Golf Course Association, which operates the course.

The 40-acre natural setting and the relaxed atmosphere that welcomes golfers of all ages and abilities also attracts dog-walkers and urban wildlife such as coyotes, deer, rabbits, and raccoons.

Initial Do-Over on Hold
A free evaluation of the course offered last year by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the American Society of Golf Course Architects (USGCA) led to a design concept of four separate courses. The plan was not universally accepted, and many people who live near or play on the course, or both, objected to the association’s going forward with the plan.

After several meetings over the summer and with a new board set to take over, those plans have been put on hold and the focus is now on the environmental master plan, which will drive the redesign of the course, Chris Carey, incoming president of the association said to an audience of about three dozen people at a Seventh Ward meeting on Nov. 3.

“We are looking to create an ecology and habitat master plan – to identify ecosystems and plant communities, to plan habitat communities, to assess the circulation plans of the users, and to look at boundaries, fencing, and natural borders,” Mr. Carey said. “PRI [the landscape firm] is now in the data-gathering state, looking at habitat and wetlands and conducting a survey of trees that are greater than 10 inches in diameter,” Mr. Carey said. The Army Corps of Engineers has determined that wetlands in and around the course are “isolated” wetlands. That is, they have no connection to navigable waterways and thus the Army Corps has no jurisdiction, he said, “but we are under the auspices of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources,” he said.  

A redesign of the course may surface again after the master plan is in place.

 “We created a blue sky committee to look at what could be done. Now we feel we have to take a step back and look at what we really want to do as a board, really look at how we see the future of the course,” Mr. Carey said.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...