This Summer the Park District of Highland Park (PDHP) released notification that Rosewood Beach has been selected for inclusion in the USACE’s (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) Great Lakes Ecosystem and Fishery Restoration Project Management Plan. Part of the USACE’s plan will dramatically change the shoreline of Rosewood Beach.
The final details of the construction have yet to be released, but a "conceptual schematic" can be viewed at the PDHP's web site. It depicts a beach design almost identical to the public beach in Lake Forest. Although the Lake Forest beach design offers clear aesthetic improvements over the current shoreline of Rosewood Beach, to some, it may be viewed as a step backwards, in that the design disenfranchises swimmers.
Currently, there are scores of open water swimmers who enjoy a "good long swim" at Rosewood Beach. These swimmers swim just outside the steel groynes but within the buoys. From the groyne by the southern edge of the parking lot down to the pier at the southern-most end of the beach property, open water swimmers can swim 300 yards without having to turn around.
Open water swimmers are the ones you see with the swim caps and goggles, sometimes sporting a wetsuit. They come in all shapes, from young to old; they are committed to swimming for their health and often are training for a triathlon or an open water swim competition such as Chicago's Big Shoulders 5K. Rosewood Beach is an ideal place for these swimmers since Lake Michigan offers a wide variety of conditions for training. From glassy-smooth to moderate waves to all out white-capped chop, there's always a guaranteed good swim waiting at Rosewood. When training for the big race, it's great to have practiced in a diversity of conditions to prepare yourself for any surprises on race day.
But Rosewood Beach is now set to undergo major changes. Most of the proposed changes are welcomed upgrades in amenities for all to use, while some other aspects have sparked debate. But the USACE’s plan to build a Lake Forest Beach at Rosewood to some marks the end of an era.
The Lake Forest Beach is impressive and feels huge. It was completed in 1986 and still looks great. If Rosewood gets turned into what they have in Lake Forest, it would be amazing. It will be a great place for bathers, kids and adults who want to "take a dip," but for those who want to swim some laps, they might be disappointed.
At Lake Forest, swimming is not allowed outside the swimming area "cells," the cove-like regions. There are four cells; the two middle cells are designated for swimming while the other two cells are for watercraft. At Lake Forest, in the swimming areas, the water depth is too shallow for lap swimming. This is a problem for open water swimmers. Also, this not only denies swimmers who swim to workout, but it also keeps younger swimmers from adequately learning to swim in open water, which is a very important skill to have.
At Rosewood's proposed northern cell, wading, bathing and swimming will not be allowed. Swimming will be allowed in the center cell and the southern cell. When asked, the PDHP says swimming restrictions for the new beach "will not be determined until the project is approved and complete."
If the new Rosewood Beach is closely modeled after Lake Forest's beach, then it's possible the PDHP will not allow swimming outside the barriers and swimming will be limited to a much confined area and not suitable for open water swimmers. The PDHP however says they hope swimming can be addressed in the USACE's Rosewood Beach design and that they can come up with some ideas to allow swimming outside the proposed barriers.
Officials from the park district explained to me that the number-one benefit for the USACE's redesign addresses the deterioration of the beach at Rosewood. Coastal engineering experts have determined that Rosewood Beach is eroding and that in maybe a decade Rosewood Beach will be gone. Signs of the erosion can be seen and felt underfoot as bathers step into the lake at water's edge. The amount of rocks has increased over the past decade at an alarming rate. These rocks are the tiny rocks, where sand should be along the water's edge. The second swimming area currently at Rosewood has so many larger rocks (6"-12") in the shallow area close to the water's edge that it is actually painful to enter the water. The USACE's redesign will eliminate the flow of all these rocks to the shoreline and create a smooth and maintainable sandy floor. It will be very bather-friendly.
We in Highland Park are fortunate to have a great park district run by a team that really cares about providing the best experience for our recreation. The Rosewood Beach redesign is a must. Rosewood Beach needs to be saved and as long as swimming can be included in the USACE's redesign, it will be a success to be enjoyed by all for years to come. Swimmers need to be an integral part of the USACE's redesign process. We need to make sure that the Park District of Highland Park assures us that swimming will be allowed at the new Rosewood Beach.