The Park District of Highland Park recently launched a new plan for Rosewood Beach that will soon be shared in its entirety with the Highland Park Community.
Previous plans met with opposition from neighborhood groups and were considered out of touch with community needs, so the Park District chose to seek more input when formulating this next rendition.
I have been following this process and want to share it with readers.
The first step was to seek a new architect. So on March 20, 2011, the Park District sent out a Request for Qualifications (RFQ).
Next, they assembled, via an application process, a resident Task Force, whose first meeting was July 25, 2011. The meetings and feedback confirmed the Park District’s belief that residents wanted a refurbished beach with multi-purpose space.
Moving ahead, the Rosewood Beach Task Force recommended commissioning David Woodhouse Architects (http://www.davidwoodhouse.com/) to design the public space at Rosewood. The Park Board accepted their recommendation at their October 27, 2011 meeting.
New Building Locations
The Woodhouse plan offers three separate, small and harmonious structures to be nestled along a wooden boardwalk south of the parking lot. These buildings include restrooms/changing rooms with outdoor showers; a small concession stand; and a lifeguard/first aid station. These buildings would be seasonal, open only during the swim season. In addition, the plan includes a year-round glass enclosed multi-purpose beach house, connected to the wooden walk way and planned for the north side of the current parking lot. This building is to be heated, open year round (although a planned 1,000 sq ft interpretive space will not be open without staff present), have a restroom (THIS will be open year round) and be available for rental, with portable seating for 50. Because of limited parking, events will be scheduled off-season and when they do not conflict with summer beach use.
From the Army Corps of Engineers, the Park District applied for and received funding from a Great Lakes Fisheries Restoration Initiative for restoration of the beach, bluffs, dunes and ravines. A series of natural harbors will be built to protect from sand loss. So…residents asked for a natural appearing lakefront (in the plans); more sand (ditto); restored native plantings (yes, including restoration of a rare microclimate at the NE portion of Rosewood Park); no more metal groins intruding into the water (check); and no more asphalt, but natural materials, at the lakefront and up the ravine walkway (check – but note that the historic Jens Jensen stone wall along the ravine will remain). There are also plans for a little observation deck over the area where the two ravines meet at the parking lot. And the ravine waters final approach to the lake will be in daylight, not via the underground culvert.
Local tax impact
As this proposed development would be funded by grants and Park District reserves, there is no need for a referendum or additional tax revenue. Though the Corps grant requires 50 years of maintenance, Rick Stumpf said that these costs would be far less than the outlay required if the Park District were to maintain our beachfront without Corps assistance.
After the two commissions (Natural Resources and Design Review) and Zoning Board of Appeals approve the plan, the project goes before City Council. Building construction would commence at the end of the 2012 swim season. The beach would be open as usual in 2013, and the Army Corps would begin their work at season’s end, with the new beachfront ready for us to enjoy the summer of 2014.
Imagining a New Lakefront
Imagine this: It is a hot summer day. Lake breezes beckon, so you head to the beach. From the parking lot you see the expanse of Lake Michigan before your eyes. As you walk onto the beach, you see sand, not piles of difficult-to-maneuver-over-stones, at waters edge. Behind you, along the bluff, there’s a little restroom/changing room (no more porta potty!!). You don’t need them yet, but you notice outdoor showers and a small concession stand. After you put your blanket down and settle in your chair, you sigh, because the lake air is special and the beach is wonderful on so many levels. And you note some friends are there, too. Lovely.
Imagine this: It is wintertime and you have come down to the beach at daybreak to stroll along the lakefront, feel the bracing air and watch what new ice formations have appeared since your last visit. But, darn! You had too much coffee and you think you need to go right home, until you notice the building to the north of the parking lot has a “restroom” sign and then you see that the building is open. Yes! You can stay longer at the beach plus there’s a little educational exhibit in this (warm) building, describing some native plants that exist in our area, and how, after heavy summer rains and winter thaws, the parking lot’s permeable pavers clean and filter any rain or salty water that would otherwise go directly into the lake. And, oh look, there are supposed to be trout in our ravines near the lakefront. Probably not now, though. And where do trout go in the winter? Perhaps there will be exhibit information on that as well.
Go and see for yourselves the Park District’s plans for our lakefront, so you can imagine how you would enjoy our revitalized lakefront. Two resident comment periods are coming up. At West Ridge Center on May 2 at 7 PM; and at Heller Nature Center on Sunday, May 6 at 1:30 PM. Hope to see you there!