Interpretive Center on Beach? Park District Listens, Doesn’t Hear
With widespread opposition to the proposed interpretive center at Rosewood Beach, the Park District places in jeopardy an otherwise supported project.
The Park District of Highland Park (PDHP) Board held a marathon session last Thursday night to address the controversy regarding the over-reaching Rosewood Beach improvements.
The evening started with a PDHP Board show and tell session at the beach with about 20 interested residents in tow. Like a backward traveling party, we left the beach and reconvened at Park District HQ (hey, isn’t it supposed to go the other way?).
Even after several public hearings with the advisory committee, the crowd now turned out to address the Board directly. Speakers came and went and returned with more things to say. The board listened. A timer managed the speaking table covered with signs counting down the seconds remaining in each person’s turn. The signs were never raised. The board listened. And they asked questions. Sometimes pinning the ears back on speakers presenting unsubstantiated arguments. They listened. But did they hear?
The room was filled with passion. About the proposed improvements the crowd ranged from ambivalent to supportive. But, with a couple exceptions, most came to oppose the proposed interpretive center, a 1,960 square foot glass building to be built on the beach.
Septuagenarian Highland Park lifers spoke against the interpretive center, expressing the soulfulness that the beach and its natural coast brought to them and how this building would interrupt this flow. Residents who are architects, scratching for factual opposition, scoffed at early cost estimates and wagged their fingers at unrealistic timelines to completion. Finally, a great idea emerged. Separate, it was proposed, the general beach improvements (washroom, storage, concessions) from the controversial interpretive center. I know the board was listening. But I don’t think they heard.
The Park District of Highland Park has been through some rough times. They’ve built financial reserves deep enough to return $681 in cash to every city resident. They’ve overcome scandal, a matter resolved but whose stink sticks like skunk. And over years they’ve made multiple attempts to move forward on improvements to Rosewood Beach, failing each time from some fatal flaw. And now this time it seems like tone deafness might kill the Rosewood Beach effort one more time. They are listening but not hearing.
It would be a shame. Although imperfect, the Rosewood Beach plan has pretty widespread support or at least acceptance. But the opposition to the interpretive center might kill whatever momentum this project has. DNR Grants will expire while the Park District argues its way through the city traffic commission. Attention from the US Army Corps of Engineers will dissipate while the building commission dithers on granting a building permit they would never dream of issuing to any private owner for the same use. Funds will be reallocated while the environmental commission considers whether the bird-proof glass is sufficient. Appearance review commission will conduct a field trip as the present commissioners’ terms expire.
This scenario would be unfortunate. But it is one that might happen if our commissioners listen with the patience of Job but fail to hear what is said. Let’s work the plan. But leave the interpretive center on the cutting room floor.
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