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Park Board Will Go Forward With Rosewood Proposal

After over a year of meetings, planning, beach tours and conversations with residents, the Park Board of Highland Park voted unanimously in favor of the entire Rosewood Beach redesign, including the controversial interpretive center.

After over a year of intense planning, and sometimes heated public debate, the Park District of Highland Park Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to approve the Rosewood Beach redesign proposal.

The unanimous vote means that the entire project will go forward, that has . The plan also involves a guard house, restrooms, concessions and a boardwalk. Construction is planned to take place in the spring of 2013 and the total estimated cost for the project is $4,661,372.

"As a business owner and a realtor… I can testify that a restored Rosewood will be a benefit to the entire community," Park Board Commissioner Elaine Waxman said before casting her vote in favor of the proposal.

The vote followed a two-hour-long public comment portion of the meeting, where many residents spoke passionately both in favor and against the plan. Most residents that argued against the plan said they favored all components of the plan except for the interpretive center.

"You have failed to provide any valid reasons for why the vote tonight should be an up or down vote," Ravinia Neighbors Association (RNA) Publicity Director Doug Purington said during public comment, urging the board to separate the interpretive center from the proposal.

Other residents that spoke on Thursday voiced their excitement about the plan's passage and its eventual construction.

"People have no idea how wonderful this is going to be," said .

Many familiar faces spoke before Thursday's vote, including Purington, RNA President Don Miller, and .

"A large majority of Highland Park residents are urging you to separate the controversial interpretive center from the plan and approve the rest," Tarm said. 

At one of the evening's more heated moments, and a testament to how passionately residents care about this project, Tarm went over the three minutes allotted for public comment, and Park Board President Scott Meyers stopper her. Many in the audience booed, and Meyers threatened to end the public comment portion of the meeting.

"If you cannot behave yourself we will bring public hearing to a close," he said.

Meyers recommends work on Ravine Beach

During the public comment and throughout the yearlong discussion surrounding the project, many residents said they opposed the plan because the buildings and boardwalk would take away from the natural beauty of Rosewood Beach.

In a direct response to these concerns, Meyers recommended Thursday that the park district demolish the water treatment plant at Ravine Beach. Doing so, he said, would make that beach the natural, scenic destination some residents are looking for at Rosewood.

"My recommendation is that, in addition to proceeding with the proposal, we also demolish this waste treatment facility and establish a natural beach environment at Ravine Beach and Millar Park," Meyers said. "What a great opportunity... not even for a compromise, but to give the community everything that they wanted."

For Purington, however, the Ravine Beach suggestion was not what he wanted to hear. 

"There's no compromise," he said. "It's not over yet."

Purington plans to continue his opposition to the proposal as it makes its way through the Park Board to the city's commissions and eventually the City Council.

"They've won the battle," he said. "We're hoping very much that they lose the war."

, who watched the vote take place along with Councilman , said he was looking forward to reviewing the project when it reached the City Council.

"I'm looking forward to reviewing the entire project from top to bottom," he said.

'Made for memories'

After the vote, Park Board Vice President Brian Kaplan said that while the opposition made some compelling points, he ultimately felt voting in favor of the project was the right decision for future generations of Highland Parkers.

"To the future kids of Highland Park, this will be a good project," he said.

Commissioner Waxman agreed. She said she was excited to have "a live beach again, where memories will be made."

"That beach is made for memories," Waxman said. "Hopefully, we'll get there."

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Walter White August 26, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Spot on as usual, Ed.
Debra Rade August 26, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Thank you, Ed, for sharing your astute perspective on the politics of how easy it can be to disregard 1000+ voting residents and ramrod a beach house down their throats. I agree with you that challenges of a referendum and determining what residents really want are extraordinary. The HP Commissioners no doubt understood this very well and, for all we know, the timing of the three public meetings was set in recognition of deadlines for filing. Who knows? All we know is that the timing isn't good for a referendum and that the Commissioners disenfranchised a large number of residents. In any event, I assume you're right that the RNA has only limited funds. But, the Park District has millions and millions! Once the commissioners saw that this was a controversial project, with significant opposition, what stopped them from asking the question of their constituents in the form of a referendum? What stops them from holding a referendum now? With an election coming up soon, it would be very convenient to determine sufficient community support or to avert building the beach house, or the entire project for that matter, lacking confirmation. Then, whatever divisiveness caused by the process to date can be resolved in a way that will make everyone feel better - in a democratic fashion.
Marcia August 27, 2012 at 03:35 PM
I have lived in Ravinia for over thirty years. I have had three children grow up using the Rosewood Beach! I am sooooo happy that they finally have realized what a valuable asset a lakefront beach is to a community. We need this! I walk to the beach almost everyday and cannot wait for next summer, or the year after if it takes that long, to see this beautiful renovation take place! Finally!
Marcia August 27, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Do all of these people who are so opposed to this use the beach? I go there often and just wondered about this? I think the whole proposal sounds like a great plan.
Tom C August 30, 2012 at 02:00 PM
memories, I remember when Park Ave Beach was for swimming and had guard house and showers, before it was turned over for long term storage for those who own boats, what a shame there no longer a swimming beach in the central part of Highland Park. The park district has turn a wonderful beach over to the special interest who would like store their boats on public property instead of at their own homes.

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