Since the 1920s, the little beige house that sits alongside Interstate 57 in Markham has served as the headquarters of the Blue Park Gun Club, a small group of recreational shooters started by World War I veterans that's now in its third generation of families.
Most weekends, dozens of members — more if the weather is nice, fewer if it's not — gathered at the clubhouse to take aim at clay pigeons, 25 shots a turn. One of the enthusiasts, a restaurant chef, has been known to whip up escargot in the home's bucolic kitchen; others pestered their 80-year-old president to take his pills. Old photos and Christmas cards hang on the walls.
This year, the shooting range is silent. The trap throwers, ready to spit out the circular, orange clay pigeons, are turned off. In the windows, signs warn: “No Shooting Allowed.”
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The gun club finds itself caught in the gears of government. For decades, its longtime landlord, the Cook County Board, was OK with letting the hobbyists fire away. But now that the landlord is wearing a different hat, as the Cook County Forest Preserve District, the club's use of the land is in jeopardy.
The group owns the land the clubhouse sits on, as well as the turf where the shooters stand. But since the 1960s, the club has had to lease the land that makes up the firing range from the Cook County Board. Back then, members were forced to move the house a few yards after the state took two-thirds of their small parcel as part of the interstate's construction.
Last year, however, the County Board transferred the land to the County Forest Preserve District to make good on an old deal — an easy swap to make because county commissioners double as forest preserve commissioners. Suddenly, the shooting range, where members long ago planted trees and brush to muffle the echo of gunshots, was not a welcome amenity on forest preserve land. Read more
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