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Why I Favor the Rosewood Beach Redesign

The Park District's plan for Rosewood is a great use of the city's only swimming beach.

It's a once in a generation opportunity.

The Highland Park Park District is working with the Army Corps of Engineers and David Woodhouse Architects on a proposal to redesign Rosewood Beach, the city's only swimming beach. is something of a hidden treasure, with a small access drive off Sheridan Road and an upper park along Roger Williams Avenue. The beach has a staffed lifeguard during summer months, while the park also features picnic areas and trails.

Click to read Patch's roundup of opinions about the Rosewood project.

Over the last year, a Park District task force has been working on recommendations for modernizing the beach. A previous plan was rejected by the community and city for encompassing a large, utilitarian building that would have cut into the bluff and sight lines at the beach. The task force set out to design a plan that would take all of those considerations, as well as minimize the overall impact to the site while providing maximum functionality.

During the last week, the to discuss the Woodhouse plan. Unlike many other government planning efforts, they held one of these workshops on a Sunday afternoon, and thus I was able to attend -- along with 75 other Highland Park residents and elected officials. I was really pleased to see the commitment of the Park District Board, the Mayor and City Council and even , who all attended along with the entire Rosewood Beach task force.

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I first heard about the modernization proposal last summer, at an event in the Ravinia neighborhood where petitions were being signed against the project. The Ravinia Neighbors Association has lobbied strongly against the scope of the proposal, . whether this was a "not in my back yard" phenomena, where the desire was to keep people away from the beach other than the ten weeks a year where its open for swimming.

At this week's hearing, I heard several comments from Ravinia-area residents continuing to lobby against the interpretive center. They presented unqualified opinions that the building will not withstand mother nature if it is located on the beach, while at Fort Sheridan a private residence sits on the beach in a building that is over 100 years old. They argued that it would need more parking, while the proposal actually intends to reduce the size of the beachfront parking lot. They argued that the interpretive center would be better off in the park on the bluff, which makes no sense to me since the whole point is to get up close to the lake itself. They argued that an enclosed, heated facility discourages that actual interaction with mother nature, while failing to recognize the expanded opportunity a building provides to make the lake more accessible.

The Park District, Army Corps of Engineers and David Woodhouse Architects presented, in my opinion, a compelling set of arguments for why an interpretive center makes sense. A building provides shelter from sudden weather conditions, such as those we experienced just before the Sunday meeting started. It also provides the opportunity to house resources used during park district programs, such as computers with Internet access, exhibits, and science equipment. The proposed building location at the north end of the beach, not blocking the wonderful vista to Bahai temple and beyond. In fact, it seems hard to imagine what the space would be useful for, if not to build a small classroom, additional restrooms and storage. And the scale of the proposed building, as was pointed out during the meeting, is about the same as the room at -- hardly a scar on that wonderful park project.

There were other comments during the hearing that were worthy of consideration. Concerns about the concession stand seemed to range from legitimate to extreme; nobody is proposing a hamburger grill on the beach. I did agree with a recommendation that it be moved further south, making the restrooms closer to the parking lot. Otherwise, the architects and task force seem to have taken into account a wide range of community feedback, most notably to make the buildings very small scale height and depth, so as not to cut into the bluff or the beach area itself.

Chicago urban planner Daniel Burnham is attributed with the statement "Make no little plans." Perhaps that thought contributed to the largesse of the last proposal for Rosewood. The revised concept presented by the Park District seems like a great approach to maximizing the asset we all have in Rosewood Beach. I love the idea of having it available for programs year-round, right down at the water front.

Thus far, I have yet to hear a good reason not to do just that.

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Doug Purington May 15, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Just another reminder that the footprint of the IC building is not 1,500 sq.ft. as Bryce has stated....it is 1,950 sq.ft as confirmed by the Park District! David G. has offered that the 1,500 sq.ft. is larger than many homes in HP, so imagine the size of this 1,950 sq.ft. edifice! So NOT APPROPRIATE to be located at Rosewood Beach!
Amy Lohmolder May 16, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Ravinia Neighbors Association (www.ravinianeighbors.com) has assisted the Park District in its stated effort to hear how the public feels about the proposed Rosewood Beach development. Their on line petition is easily viewed and available for the public at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/rosewoodbeach/signatures The electronic count of that particular part of the larger petitioning effort was 229 at last check. Although this does contain a few duplicates by individuals (who perhaps were not sure if their electronic vote had registered) there are also couples who signed both their names and yet the tally only registered one for these people. In addition, volunteers worked in various parts of the city collecting 737 hard copy signatures. This shorter version of the petition called for development to meet “basic beach needs” (another version stated “just washrooms”) My personal experience talking to approx. 400 people was that roughly 7 in 10 signed, wanting only this (if any development at all) while roughly 3 out of 10 wished to study the matter more before deciding. Less than a dozen said they wanted a larger development. We are told the RNA effort resulted in the largest number of petition signatures on any one issue in Highland Park history. These voices are valid and need to be given their place within the discussion.
Jennie Moore June 20, 2012 at 02:12 PM
I am in complete favor of everything that has been offered. Why? Yesterday we were actually at the beach. A group showed up with a handful of little ones. They were ready to go into the water *yes it was very cold, but kids love it* They were actually told they kids couldn't go in. Why? I'm not sure, it was getting a bit windy and as I said the water was cold, but I'm not sure why. Needless to say, they weren't there very much longer. The kids played for about 30 min and they left. I feel if there were more things especially a center the kids could enjoy when they can't go in the water *for whatever the reason* more people may come and enjoy this great beach (well great except for the awful pebbles everywhere)! We need to make this beach more inviting to the families with little ones. As I said we were there yesterday mid day (2-530) and it was quite empty for such an amazingly hot day. I think one reason that most residents don't speak up is because they don't utilize this beach and one reason may just be the quality of the beach (rocks, sticks, garbage). We are so lucky as a community to have this amazing body of water and we need to teach our children about it so it's there for their children.
Jennie Moore June 20, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Forgot to also ask.... as this beach is for all residents of HP, how many of you actually utilize it, regularly? In all honesty? Especially to those that are so against the IC. I can say we didn't/don't as much as we should have as my son was growing up. I ask this, as I mentioned in my post, on one of the hottest days so far this summer, it was practically empty. On another note, I do have to say, I was quite happy to see that in our 3+ hrs there, one community officer and one police officer actually came thru not only the parking lot, but also walked around.
David Greenberg June 20, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Maybe they just went to the HP Park District's Aqua Park instead? Personally, I'd rather have a small child in a pool than the Lake - more of a controlled environment until they become better swimmers.

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