As the Park District Board of Commissioners inches closer to determining the fate of Rosewood Beach, residents continue to debate its proposed redesign.
There are currently two community groups discussing whether or not the plan developed by the Rosewood Beach task force should be adopted by the Park Board. Ravinia Neighbors Association (RNA) opposes the plan because of the proposed interpretive center, a roughly 1900-square foot multi-purpose building that would cost between $579,000 to $630,000 to build, while the newly formed Friends of Rosewood (FOR) favors it.
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"[RNA] keep trying to speak for the entire town of Highland Park and we thought that was enough," said Michelle Holleman, FOR organizing committee member. "We've formed more to promote the plan we believe in."
Though RNA members have blogged on Patch and spoken at meetings against the proposed plan, the group favors every aspect of it except for the interpretive center, according to RNA Publicity Director Doug Purington.
"It's not all or nothing," Purington said. "We want every single part of that plan to move quickly except for the interpretive center."
Purington says that in addition to creating a larger environmental footprint and unnecessarily blocking the view, the building will lead to more people on the beach than the space can handle.
"They want to get the whole ball of wax and they've been pushing for that," Purington said about the plan's supporters.
Holleman, however, thinks RNA's opposition stems from its members not wanting these facilities and the increased activity they may lead to in their backyard.
"We are lucky to have this space and we need to use it for people responsibly," Holleman said. "We're just here to generate support."
What happens if the board votes 'no'
The Rosewood Beach task force presented its redesign plan for the beach to the board on June 21, after a year of meetings with architects and a construction manager to come up with a plan its members felt fit the whole community. The task force's plan includes a boardwalk, the interpretive center, viewing areas, a concession stand and bathrooms.
"It's not just, 'I grew up in New Jersey and we have boardwalks there,'" Task Force Chairman Davie Fairman explained about the design process. "We've kept in mind how Highland Parkers use that beach."
The project's estimated cost is $3.8 million, according to the Park District's website. Construction cost would be funded through grants and Park District reserves and revenues generated through rentals and programming would be used to help offset operational and maintenance costs.
The board expects to vote on the plan as a whole at its July 26 meeting, according to board president Scott Meyers. If the board approves the plan, the next step is to develop a schematic for the city of Highland Park and the Army Corps of Engineers.
"The final vote is up or down to provide preliminary approval of the entire task force proposal as a whole," Meyers told Patch this week. "If we vote against the plan we will go back to the drawing board and figure out why it didn't pass."
The voting process will not include the opportunity to remove parts of the plan, like the controversial interpretive center. Doing so would be inconsistent with how the board first outlined this process, according to Meyers.
"It wouldn't be appropriate to just lop off part of the project," Meyers said, pointing out that the task force was enlisted to create a singular vision for the beach. "We owe it to the public and the task force to call for an up or down vote."
If the board votes against the redesign, the proposal process would most likely restart. The task force would probably be reconvened, or a new one would be created, according to Meyers. He said it would be very time-consuming.
"No one is looking to slow down the process, but at the same it's time better that we get it right than we get it right now," he said.
Embracing multiple viewpoints
The last time two community groups were formed to favor or oppose a citywide topic was when District 113's failed referendum was on the ballot last April. The Park District held two community meetings about Rosewood, and has received hundreds of emailed comments about the plan, in addition to feedback from FOR and RNA members. Meyers told Patch he's happy to see so much community participation in this process.
"My hope is that having more view points available will hurt misinformation," Meyers said. "We sincerely want to hear what people think."
Though Meyers declined to provide his impression of the proposal while the board is deliberating on it, he did give an example of how resident participation has helped the process along. After a number of residents emailed concerns that birds might fly into the glass used for some of the structures, the board reached out to various environmental services and found out that the type of glass proposed would create visual noise, decreasing the chances of bird collisions.
"We want information," Meyers said. "We're listening to comments as they continue to come in."
The Park Board meets for a workshop meeting on Thursday, July 12 at 6 p.m. at West Ridge Center.