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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.

The Ravinia Neighbors Association (RNA) does not seem to have discovered that art as of yet when it comes

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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, 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  to stop the Park District from building an 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  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. 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.

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Patch encourages readers to write in with their own opinions on the Rosewood Beach proposal. Email letters to the editor to jacob@patch.com.

Mosaic53 June 20, 2012 at 01:29 PM
The RNA just doesn't want the IC in their neighborhood. They repeatedly suggest other "better" places for it. The RNA started as a result of the Walgreens being built in Ravinia & I believe they have contributed a valuable voice for the area. I joined based on their past contributions. I'm still a member but am very disappointed in their behavior related to this issue. They do not speak for me - even as a member. There are 23,000 registered voters in HP & 920-960 signatures (their numbers) on their petitions. Regardless of their persistence , the Park District Board will make the right decision, with the information, recommendations & feedback they now have.
Sam Shepard June 20, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Great article Ed! I've followed this process closely as well and have been mystified as to the huge animosity towards this interpretive center. What I can say for certain is that my young family and I will be waiting eagerly for an updated and improved Rosewood Beach, and believe it or not, the center associated with it!
Paul Smith June 20, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Good article, Ed. I'm in the same boat as Mosaic53 - an RNA member who is disappointed in their approach to the beach issue and their complete lack of flexibility.
John Adorjan June 20, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Well said Ed.
David Greenberg June 20, 2012 at 07:08 PM
We don't need the IC in any neighborhood. It's completely unnecessary. I'm opposed to it because: * The Park District has enough facilities and taxes us too much as it is. We need tax relief from all taxing bodies, including the Park District. * We don't need a house-sized structure on the beach. We need a concession stand, some bathrooms, and lifeguard storage. That's it. * We don't need another facility to operate and maintain. * One can "interpret" the beach just fine by sitting on the sand, on the beach, without being in a building. * Traffic - pedestrian and vehicular will increase in the neighborhood. It's already not safe for pedestrians, why make the problem worse? Or why have to spend even more money constructing more sidewalks and dealing with traffic controls just so we can have an unnecessary Interpretative Center? * Grant Money: The IL Dept of Nat. Resources is offering a matching grant. We put up $400K, we get $400K. So the PD calls it an $800K grant - that's misleading. And we don't get the money up-front, we *MIGHT* get it 90-days after we complete the building, *IF* the State of Illinois decides to pay the bill. Recall that the IL DNR is going broke, is looking to close State Parks, has hundreds of millions in unfunded outstanding maintenance and infrastructure issues, and wants to raise our license plate fees by $2/yr to fund their operations. * The public already said NO to this in a previous referendum.
David Greenberg June 20, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I almost forgot. At one of the meetings, the Park District said that the beach runs about $60K/year in the red. By installing the IC, they'll only run $50K/yr in the red. If we assume the $800K grant is the whole cost of the IC - then saving $10K/yr should give us an ROI of 80 years. Insane. Simply insane from the standpoint that no one in their right mind would spend 80 years recouping their investment, AND spending $800K on a house on the beach is just nuts too...
Ed Brill June 21, 2012 at 01:20 AM
With my article online for fifteen hours, 80% of the comments have been in favor of the expressed sentiment. I guess I should start claiming that in all future discussion of the topic.... "80% of Patch.com readers who spoke in the public forum"...

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