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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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Mosaic53 May 14, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Paul: You hit it on the head exactly! That was my point several posts ago. No matter what decision the Board makes, it will still make some residents unhappy. I, too, am an RNA member & the RNA does NOT represent the community as a whole although Mr. Purington seems to think so. I will respect the decision the Board makes EITHER way. Ironically, as the Publicity Director of the RNA, Mr. Purington's rather militant stance does not reflect favorably on their image as a group.
D May 14, 2012 at 07:56 PM
I don't think it is fair to say that the PD isn't listening or that they have some kind of evil agenda. The reality of the situation is that there are residents for and against the proposed improvements. It is their job to listen, respond to feedback and then to make a decision that they think is most appropriate for our community. Lets not attack them just because they might be proposing something that you personally don't like. If you have an issue with part of the plan talk about that as it is a fair conversation to have. If anything the process the PD has used has been more open to feedback. Otherwise the improvements would have already been completed years ago.
D May 14, 2012 at 08:02 PM
I also agree that the RNA does NOT represent the entire community. Their views represent some of the community. They don't even represent the views of all of the members of RNA. It seems to me that they are just throwing their name around as if that magically means more than it does. There are numerous articles on their website that have inaccurate information about the proposed improvements. The size of the IC is wrong by about a factor of 2x, there is discussion about adding more parking at the beach which is not in the plans, etc. Then there is discussion of this petition that in most cases was signed before the current plans were done. Based on the dates seems the petition is about the old plans which are no longer up for discussion. Not sure how you can be opposed to plans that didn't exist yet. Anyhow, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but lets not make up the facts.
forest barbieri May 14, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Let me just clarify that I favor both the process and the plan put forth by the Park District. I think we have come light years in terms of leadership and community involvement with the HPPD's new leadership. Also, while it is always good sporting fun to disagree with Ed, I truely am not a fan of the IC as stated. Now that the IC seems to be shifting to being called a beach house for activities, parties et al making it a softer more palatable image. I still would like to see it's footprint off the beach and prefer a passive approach to interpretive as I believe the whole point of being at the beach is to physically and mentally interpret the beauty, open air, sun and fun on a personal level. Having said that, I look forward to the final plan and even more so to the completion as wherever we end up, the community wins. Let's build this thing:)
Amy Lohmolder May 14, 2012 at 08:31 PM
The RNA website has absolutely represented information correctly. The footprint of the Interpretive Center is 35"6" x 56'10" --1960 sq. ft. per the architectural plan. If you are finding a larger size somewhere on the RNA blog it is because RNA has been covering this proposed development for years now. You are looking at an older posting. In an earlier rendition the Interpretative Center was in the same structure as the (very needed) bath facilities. My memory says it was about 3000 sq. ft. then and cut into the restored bluff. There was an outcry – especially as the IC was being touted as a facility to honor and teach about nature – and that particular plan was dropped. As for parking, again, it was only in this latest rendition that it was reduced. I would never claim that the RNA represents all views, but it does represent a majority on this issue (and has done a great deal to advocate and make improvements for the areas in and surrounding Ravinia).
Doug Purington May 14, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Just to once again verify the size of the IC building. Despite various references in the media and by the Park District as being 1,000 sq ft, the actual footprint is 1,950 sq ft to include the IC room, bathrooms and machinery for heating and cooling. BTW, if the PD is totally listening, then, by now, they would be investigating the viabilty (or not) of the 7 alternative sites that have been suggested for the IC. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've seen no evidence of that. The RNA may have implied that we represent all of the RNA and all of the community of HP. We know that is not the case. However, we speak for a substantial number of residents who question the IC as part of the overall plan for Rosewood and simply want the PD to consider other options for its placement. We're anxious for the Woodhouse vision for Rosewood to move forward quickly...just without the IC.
Ed Brill May 14, 2012 at 08:44 PM
I am not sure anyone can expect the "Rosewood Beach Task Force" to explore alternative site locations. They are responsible for this project and this project only. The full PDHP should certainly have a discussion about alternate sites, but many that I have seen proposed are non-starters because they would require land acquisition or traffic adjustments. Building a building where there is nothing today is different than an existing site being modified.
Amy Lohmolder May 14, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Again, Bryce, (and I regret that I can not get this to post under your comment just below) I ask you to LOOK at the wording of the petition that nearly 1000 people signed. The petitions are absolutely relevant. "Provide for basic beach needs" mean NO Interpretive Center. The proposed IC has nothing to do with the original swim-recreation-and-natural sanctuary functions of this tiny beach. In fact, the vast majority of petition signatures collected were signed AFTER the proposed 3000 sq. ft - carved-into-the-bluff version failed. Those in the minority, who really want a large development and the IC are desperate to silence the voice of those 1000+++ who do not. Sadly, some are all too willing to disparage RNA and others who have studied this more carefully, pointing out inconsistencies and flaws with the PD''s more ambitious plans.
Bryce Robertson May 14, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Amy, I have seen the wording of the petition as many of you members of the RNA have pointed out. While you have had "1,000" people sign the petition (the number, interestingly enough, keeps changing), there are still 28,000 residents of Highland Park who have not signed the petition. Rosewood, if you've been, is anything but tiny… in fact, it is Highland Park's most used and safest beach. Park Avenue is for boating, Moraine is more or less a joke in terms of usability for people (although it holds a very necessary use for dogs, mine included), Rosewood is for us! Now, the wording "basic beach needs" is just a SMALL part of the entire petition. The entire text still even mentions the carved-into-the-bluff structure. 1500 sq ft is hardly LARGE by any means, and the design is off the currently "used" beach anyhow. The RNA has not pointed out one inconsistency or true flaw with the PD plan, only personal opinions of those who take the "not in my backyard" approach - increased traffic, not enough parking, too many people - the horror, people using a neighborhood beach for more than tanning! There are an equal number of RNA members on Patch who have voiced their unequivocal support for the plan. There are many of us non-RNA members who voice support.
Bryce Robertson May 14, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Now, if you stand by this petition, I encourage you or Doug or someone to please contact me via Patch, and send me an entire copy of this petition, all signatures and dates intact. A PDF would be fine. I will be happy to take the time and determine the amount of valid signatures (read: non-duplicates, eligible voters, within the appropriate time frame). Otherwise, until some non-involved entity goes over this petition, that argument is completely worthless.
Amy Lohmolder May 14, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Ed, -There certainly are proposed alternative sites and in some cases, these properties are already owned by the PD. Why not reuse the old water treatment plant at the base of Ravine Drive? An adaptive -reuse educational facility here might be really cool. Or how about better developing the Park Ave. beach? How about the Schaffner estate at Millard? Wouldn’t caring for and utilizing what we already have be a better use of both taxpayer and natural resources? THIS is the way to honor nature and the better lesson to hand our children. Why tear into undeveloped beachfront for the interpretative center when the PD already owns underutilized property along the lake that is in need of repair?
Mosaic53 May 14, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Regardless of the fact that Rosewood happens to be in the Ravinia neighborhood, this is a beach for the entire city of Highland Park. So, the RNA is "suggesting" other sites, which happen to be in other HP neighborhoods. Sounds like a case of "NIMBY" (not in my backyard). What's to keep those neighborhoods from deciding the same? Again, I will look to the elected Board to decide the outcome.
Doug Purington May 14, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Ed: We're not expecting the "Task Force" to explore alternative site locations as you properly state that it's not their responsibility. However, we do expect that the PDHP, having heard enough concerns expressed about the location of the IC, would already be researching the suggested alternatives, some of which are already owned by them. These alternative sites may or may not be suitable but the PDHP has a duty to check them out rather than summarily dismiss them as possibilities.
Doug Purington May 14, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Mosaic53: We've already heard the "NIMBY" reference to our efforts and it's an unjust reference! We clearly recognize that Rosewood, being the only swimming beach in Highland Park, is there to be experienced and enjoyed by ALL residents of Highland Park! We're simply suggesting other sites, adjacent to Lake Michigan, that we feel would be much more suitable for the IC than Rosewood. By necessity, they're in other shoreline areas of HP. Actually, one of the suggested sites IS in the Ravinia neighborhood, that being the park overlooking Rosewood Beach. We love the rest of the plan for Rosewood and want it to move forward as quickly as possible! It appears that many people feel that it's an all-or-nothing proposition...the entire plan, including the IC, or nothing at all. The Woodhouse vision DOESN'T NEED THE IC for it to become a reality. Rosewood DOESN'T NEED A 1,960 SQ.FT. EDIFICE, no matter what it's now being called, to interfere with and detract from the pure experience of the beach and all its natural beauty!
Doug Purington May 15, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Mosaic53/Paul W.: My "militant" stance against the IC is no more militant than the stance of those in favor of it! I fail to understand why so many people feel that the Rosewood rehabilitation has to have the IC in order to succeed! Nothing could be further from the truth. BTW, to quote Ed Brill: "Yes, everyone was at Heller on Sunday to listen (myself included).....Many who did not speak were there to support the plan, myself included. I did not need to speak publicly to get that point across." If there were those there, including Ed, to support the inclusion of the IC, why didn't they speak up?! I don't believe silence "gets the point across"! For a true read on the public's consensus opinion, shouldn't BOTH sides take the PDHP up on their public forum offering? Apathy doesn't cut it...if residents believe in the need for an IC in order for Rosewood Beach to be a better beach, then they need to voice that belief....otherwise, speak now or forever hold their peace!
Ed Brill May 15, 2012 at 01:16 AM
The in-person forums were hardly the only opportunity to express one's opinion to the PDHP or the Beach Task Force. I am quite certain by now the PDHP has me on record in favor of the full project. There was no need to repeat myself in front of a microphone, as others chose to do.
Ed Brill May 15, 2012 at 01:17 AM
whoops that was a response to the question of why I didn't say anything at the Heller hearing which was in response to Mosaic53.
Doug Purington May 15, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Ed: Your "on the record" is quite clear and that's fine. However, what about all the other residents that believe as you do but haven't exercised their voice? Versus the entire population of HP, their has been a limited number to have spoken up one way or the other. I'm no pushing for another referendum, would just like a clearer picture of where the residents in toto really stand on the issue of the IC. Right now, it's rather limited to the precious few of us that are standing up for either position. I know that there appears to be a huge consensus for the rest of the plan, the RNA included. As for the IC, I haven't seen much in the way of a convincing argument that it belongs only at Rosewood!
Amy Lohmolder May 15, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Bryce, the nearly 1000 petition signature that you are doubting were presented to the Park District at the May 6th meeting. They are valid. If you truly feel along with Ed that a majority wish to have an Interpretative Center on Rosewood Beach, then you are free to use the petition process yourself to back your opinion.
Bryce Robertson May 15, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Amy, are you saying that the one copy exists somewhere at the Park District? Who specifically was this document delivered to? I will be happy to get a copy made. Thanks for your help.
Mosaic53 May 15, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Seems to me that although this beach falls within the Ravinia "neighborhood", it is a beach for ALL Highland Park residents. So, the RNA "suggests" 7 alternative sites for the IC. Those sites just happen to be in neighborhoods OTHER than Ravinia? Hmmm. COuld this be just another example of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard)?
Doug Purington May 15, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Come on, get real! You should read all comments by all people. Then, you'd realize that we ALL know that Rosewood is for ALL HP residents. Duh! The point is that there doesn't have to be an IC in order for the beautiful plan to satisfy ALL HP residents. Please get off your "NIMBY" horse! If you can find additional alternative sites within Ravinia that would be appropriate for the IC, feel free to add them to the list!
Doug Purington May 15, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I just reread one of the many comments by Ed Brill, this on one of the other blogs concerning Rosewood Beach. And I quote: "I am also offended that you and others keep representing that the two public hearings came out against the interpretive center. The numbers published above show 3x as many people attended as spoke. Most people wont waste time in a forum like that expressing support - including me." Waste of time? WOW, what an attitude! What if everyone thought that way?! No wonder it's a slam-dunk appearance that the IC is not wanted at Rosewood Beach! It's nice to see that the "silence" of the IC proponents will very likely doom the IC at Rosewood. So, PDHP, let's move on and approve the beautiful Woodhouse visionary plan SANS the IC! The time to do so is now so that work can begin in 2012!
Peter Lucas May 15, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Agreed, the Ravine Drive Beach structure would be a good alternative. So would Park Ave. Over my lifetime, the Park District has operated and closed several swimming beaches. The swimming beaches closed were remade for other uses. Park Ave., once the primary swimming beach, is now a boat launch. Moraine, which once served residents in the north end of town, is now a dog beach. Why not make better use of a structure at Ravine Dr. that has withstood the test of time and the forces of the lake and keep Rosewood a swimming beach? The Park District, which has a history of keeping the functions of its beaches separate from one another, has alternative sites to locate the interpretative center and ought to take them into consideration.
David Greenberg May 15, 2012 at 10:27 PM
1500 sq ft is larger, or as large as many homes in Highland Park. So basically, we're talking about dropping a house down at Rosewood Beach. Regardless of the size - it's unnecessary.
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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