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Geneva Lake has something local lakes do not

Published: Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 12:30 p.m. CST

On a very hot Saturday in late June, I was mowing the lawn and thinking how much I wanted to jump in a lake to cool off.

When I finished, I told my fiancee what I was thinking. She reminded me that we just joined Wauconda’s Lake View Villa Association, which has a beach on Bangs Lake just a few blocks from our Bonner Road house.

With dozens of lakes, Lake County has its name for a reason. Long ago, it was discovered as a great place for recreation. Houses ring its lakes, making shorelines almost entirely private property.

You can’t walk around Bangs Lake; if you tried, the property owners certainly would have something to say. I don’t know of a major lake in the county you can walk around. But you probably know of one where you can – Wisconsin’s Geneva Lake.

At Geneva Lake, people can walk along the 26-mile shoreline, a trail started by Indians. Long ago, courts ruled property owners must allow people access to the shoreline. Do you think that has something to do with the fact that Geneva Lake and its major town, Lake Geneva, are some of the most popular attractions in the region?

Karen Walsh, director of the Geneva Lake Museum, thinks it helps.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” she said. “Not everyone likes the idea, especially some of the property owners. You don’t have total privacy. You can sit on your lawn, and people walk by.”

And these aren’t just any houses – in some cases, they are million-dollar mansions.

In much of the world, the best neighborhoods are gated off; that’s not always the case in the United States, a relatively open society. So I’ll bet international visitors to Geneva Lake experience cultural shock when they can get up so close to the rich. Maybe that’s why Geneva Lake is known for attracting so many visitors from other countries.

“We have someone from almost every country every year,” Walsh said. “I’m looking at our list from yesterday. We had people from China and Poland. It’s pretty amazing.”

When I Googled the words “trail around a lake,” mostly lakes out West boasted such an amenity. The West is less populated, and before it started filling up, President Theodore Roosevelt set aside land for parks, stopping private development along some bodies of water.

Illinois and Wisconsin, as it happens, have a few very small lakes with complete trail access, but nothing on the scale of Geneva Lake.

Geneva Lake property owners may grumble, but the local economy benefits greatly. If only we had our own Geneva Lake.

David Giuliani is news editor of Lake County Suburban Life. He may be reached at 847-231-7524 or dgiuliani@shawmedia.com.

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