Let's Move Forward With Rosewood Beach
It's time for Ravinia Neighbors Association to stop fighting against the interpretive center and let the Park District renovate the city's only swimming beach.
There is a time to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.
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For the last several months, the Park District of Highland Park has sponsored a task force to make recommendations regarding the future of the city's only swimming beach. That task force has solicited public input through mailings, emails and open meetings. The resulting proposal for the beach overall will be presented to the Park District board this week.
Since the project to update the beach started, the RNA has aggressively campaigned against it. Last summer, I attended a Ravinia neighborhood event that ostensibly could have done wonders to highlight the local businesses and community. Instead, it was scarred in my brain by two political threads - overly-aggressive campaigning for certain 2012 primary races, and a front-and-center petition drive to stop the Park District from building an interpretive center on the beach. Probably not the impression the sponsors wanted when they paid for the event. However, the RNA's early efforts on this project sent the Park District back to the drawing board, and last month they unveiled a revised, rescaled, harmonized project.
The RNA continues to campaign aggressively against the Interpretive Center. What I find odd is that despite asking them directly, in several ways and occasions, the RNA has never once said why they are against it! They label it overdevelopment or inappropriate. They redirect the conversation saying they would support it on the bluff or on some other property. They latch on to talking points that it won't withstand winters, or its bigger than the Park District says it will be. Never once in all of the debate have I ever seen the RNA state clearly and unemotionally why they are against the Interpretive Ceter.
I've had other issues with the way the RNA is prosecuting their campaign against opening up Rosewood Beach to a year-round citywide usage. Last week, the RNA went to the Highland Park City Council to complain about the project - BEFORE a final proposal has even been submitted to the elected Park District board, which happens to be a separate government agency. They also cherry-picked irrelevant and even bogus statistics to cite, such as claiming that 75 percent of the public comment at the two Park District open houses was against the project. Public comment, as any elected official knows, is not a statistical sample exercise. Anyone could sign up to speak, and the RNA made sure at both events that people who had already otherwise provided input to the Park District restated their positions. At the Heller event I attended, one speaker insisted that she had the right to speak longer than the event-imposed guideline of three minutes, disrespecting every other person in the room. Just because some of us never took the microphone, the RNA is asserting our opinion as irrelevant.
Actually, RNA, the Park District solicited input in many other ways, so the open forum was not necessary for me to tell them that I support the project.
The RNA claims to have nearly a thousand petition signatures against the project, but they were mostly gathered before the 2012 version of the Park District proposal, and the online version has numerous duplicate or bogus entries. From my experience at that event last year, I know that many signing the petition were misled as to the intentions of the project.
So who are the RNA anyway, and why do they feel like they need to execute a scorched earth campaign? Are they really speaking for a majority of their members? From emails and comments here on Patch, I don't believe so. Are they representing Ravinia businesses, whose image is being sullied by the overly-aggressive tactics?
There are certainly reasons to be skeptical of the Rosewood Beach project. The Park District owns many facilities that could use an update instead of building yet more buildings. It will indeed be important to build the building properly to withstand winter - true of all four proposed structures along the beach. The project relies on the Army Corps to do their part for overall success.
For those reasons, the public debate has served the project well. But this week, it is time to let our elected officials make their decisions and move forward. The image of a neighborhood --perhaps improperly represented -- is at stake.
Patch encourages readers to write in with their own opinions on the Rosewood Beach proposal. Email letters to the editor to email@example.com.