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Support Rosewood Beach Renovation

Opinion supporting the Park District's Plan to Develop Rosewood Beach

The other day an e-mail arrived in my mail box with a grave warning urging me to sign a petition. Apparently, the Park District of Highland Park was up to something at Rosewood Beach. . Change is coming to , and that change could involve something as scandalous a multi-purpose beach house designed to BRING CHILDREN TO THE BEACH for educational programming.

Wow. The threat of local school children actually going to Rosewood was definitely a call to action.

I have a keen interest in all things Rosewood since I live in Ravinia and walk to the beach each day with a good friend and our dogs. We rarely see others. This beach has to be one of the most underused resources on the entire North Shore. Since I'm one of the few people who frequent this spot, I feel that I must have earned some kind of squatter’s right to the title.

So, I did heed the call to action. But instead of signing the petition condemning the beach house/multi-purpose space, I went to the Rosewood Beach Advisory Committee Planning Meeting on Wednesday night to see what exactly what was causing such a fuss.

I didn't know what to expect, but I walked away wishing they would start construction tomorrow.

Now, partly I don’t want to get too excited, because this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this. There’s always a plan to fix Rosewood Beach. And there’s always a reason it doesn’t happen.

This time though, the Park District has taken a different approach.

The plan as I understand it is twofold. The first part will completely reestablish the sandy beach, protect the shoreline, stabilize the bluffs and restore the ravines. A job like this is a massive undertaking that will take an army of workers. Fortunately an Army of engineers equipped with expertise and Great Lakes building permits, and well armed with federal funds has landed at Rosewood. The Army Corps of Engineers has a keen interest in restoring Great Lakes fisheries. Since Rosewood lacks adequate habitat for fish spawning, the Army has taken up our cause (apparently a lack of public toilets was not a reason for the Army to get involved). We owe a big debt of gratitude to those fish.

The work outlined by the Army will restore about 11 acres of coastland, reclaiming a substantial amount of beach in the process. They are still drawing plans, but some have estimated that the sandy beach at Rosewood could be enlarged by nearly 50%.  This means more square footage of beach and more stable beach area. If you're wondering what kind of work the Army Corps does, you can check out the beautiful beach in Lake Forest to get an idea.

Presuming we get the federal funding, a restored beach with enhanced square footage would pave the way for the Park District to further enhance the space with some basic improvements – like real toilets. Turns out, we can expect much more.

Learning from past missteps with Rosewood, the Park District organized a citizen advisory committee which has spent the many months listening and understanding the needs of the community. In conjunction with the PDHP, the committee hired an architect, developed a site plan, and proposed development for the Rosewood property.

 Some highlights from the proposed Rosewood Plan include:

  • A beautiful wooden boardwalk which replaces the asphalt sidewalk and connects a series of buildings along the path
  • Family bathrooms and changing areas
  • A concession stand with adjacent patio seating
  • Children’s playground and beach volleyball area
  • A lifeguard shack with a first aid station and storage
  • A fantastic glass enclosed multi-purpose beach house, with about 1,000 square feet of space available for multi-purpose programming, camps, and exercise classes – whatever they dream up. The space will be open to beach visitors during operating hours and will generate rental revenue during non-peak hours.

I pinched myself a few times and then realized that these folks were serious. The architect, David Woodhouse, has an excellent track record with projects that respect the environment, and he brought that same respect to this project.

Where the PDHP drew past criticism for “overbuilding” on the Rosewood site, this rendition breaks up a large building into several smaller components. Liberal use of glass means that instead of blocking views, you will see through buildings to the lake and bluff. The boardwalk ties the whole project together, unifies all the elements, and provides benches with seating.

 Wow. Wow. Wow.

This is a game changer for Highland Park. People will no longer refer to Rosewood as the Eyesore on the Shore. Instead of giant porta potty trailer and ugly metal walls dividing the beach, we’ll have functional facilities, a restored beach, and excellent multi-purpose space. Rosewood will be the crown jewel in our park system.

Jewels always come with price tags and the cost will be substantial. The Army Corps will foot 65% of the restoration bill with federal funds, currently estimated at $6,213,000 according to the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Program website, www.glfer.org. The Park District plans to pay for their share and additional improvements with existing grant money and reserves set aside for capital projects. No additional tax dollars will be levied to fund these improvements. Future operating costs will increase, but much of the additional maintenance costs could be covered by revenue generated from rental and concession fees.

These developments will undoubtedly bring more people to our hamlet of Ravinia, but the reality is that Rosewood Beach belongs to all of Highland Park. Highland Park’s shoreline extends more for more than five miles, yet we only have about 270 feet where people are actually allowed to swim in the water. Those 270 feet are in Ravinia. 

Moraine beach is for dogs. Park Avenue beach is for boats. The undeveloped Ravine Beach (if you can find it) is for love-struck teenagers. Lake County’s Fort Sheridan’s beach is the designated resting place of unexploded ordinance.

Rosewood is for people.

I realize we have an obligation to respect the environment and the beauty of this natural space (and let’s not forget those fish), but we also have an obligation to use our single people beach for the benefit of all our citizens.

The problem with people is that our needs change over time. What we need today may be out of fashion tomorrow. Ravinia Festival used to ban alcohol and housed a Casino – that’s unimaginable today. We can't anticipate every possible use or define every possible programmatic function for this proposed building – and that’s fine. We just need to make sure it’s flexible enough to adapt when needs change.

We can’t be shortsighted. If we’re addressing basic infrastructure needs for Rosewood we can do more, we should. We should enhance the area with a multi-purpose year-round building which offers long-term flexibility and short term income - it’s a win for everyone.

Ravinians have always been a welcoming community. We live in the shadow of one of the world’s great music festivals, which brings thousands of people to our doorstep each night of the summer. We take it in stride and appreciate the perks that come from sharing this treasure with the world. It seems to me we could apply the same principle and welcome the additional Highland Park residents who might visit our community when they drop off their kids at a camp, enjoy a yoga class, or come down to the beach to enjoy the view. Maybe they’ll grab a latte at Java Love or a cupcake at Baker Boys on the way home.

Our greater community has consciously decided that Rosewood Beach is the area to be developed for people – for swimming and recreation. The Army corps has offered funding and expertise. Now is the time to act decisively to address community needs. We cannot miss this opportunity to revitalize and enhance Rosewood.

Yes, more people will come, and of course a more developed beach is a game changer for those of us who do visit regularly. We may soon cede our squatters rights to the title. We may walk down the stairs and find the sands filled with kids enjoying the water, teens playing volleyball, and adults escaping for a quick lunch. The beach will no longer be ours alone, but we’re Ravinians, and we’re used to sharing our neighborhood with friends we have not yet met.

See you at the beach.

Public Meeting

If you want more information about the park District’s proposed plan, you can attend the public meetings

Wednesday, May 2, 7:00 p.m. at West Ridge Center, 636 Ridge Road

Sunday, May 6, 1:30 p.m. at Heller Nature Center, 2821 Ridge Road

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dan Jenks May 03, 2012 at 03:10 PM
David, you either weren’t a Boy Scout or you didn’t fully internalize this lesson. Yes, leaving your campsite better than you found it does mean picking up trash that you didn’t drop. It also involves things like building fire pits, clearing brush, lining trails, etc. The idea is to do something that won’t personally benefit you but will benefit others who come after you – whether it is in your community, nation or the world. Your analogy about the Scouts building roads, permanent facilities is unpersuasive. Building roads and permanent structures is to a campsite like building a 10 story resort condominium is to Rosewood Beach. Building a fire pit or making a trail is to a campsite, like, uh, I don’t know, building a concession stand, bathroom, playground (and perhaps a year-round building) is to Rosewood Beach.
Dan Jenks May 03, 2012 at 03:11 PM
The problem with your view on municipal investment is that it is static and violates the social contract we have those who have come before us and those who come after us. Every argument you make could have been made against the purchase, outfitting and upgrading of each of our parks and schools during the past century. Somehow, residents of Highland Park in the 20th century were able to bequeath us with a wonderful legacy. We get to benefit from their investments and sacrifice, but I guess it has all been done now and we have no further obligation. Isn’t that convenient? Whether one agrees with the beach house or not, the proposal overall doesn’t seem extravagant. The beach is an under-utilized asset which could be more extensively used by the 33,000 people who live in Highland Park. Funds will come not from a bond issue or a tax increase, but from reserves. Decrying the use of reserves to carry out this project is particularly hypocritical because that is exactly how you want District 113 to fund its work – out of money saved up over time. You can’t logically have it both ways
David Greenberg May 03, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Dan - you're misinterpreting what I've said with regard to D113. When they build something new, I want them to set aside money year on year during it's life so that it can be properly maintained, repaired, and eventually replaced with a like structure, and so they'll have the money readily available to do so, without having to come back to the taxpayers for a referendum. I fully expect the Park District to do the same thing. I absolutely do not expect either District to utilize their reserve funds for new construction that happens to catch their fancy, simply because they happen to have some money in reserves. As we heard at last night's meeting: The Park District had set aside about $770K or so for Rosewood. On top of that set aside, they plan to spend over $2 million more from reserves. And that's before we even talk about the millions more to be spent on the Army Corps of Engineer's proposal (which is a whole other can of worms w/surrounding questions and concerns brought forth by many in attendance).
Mosaic53 May 06, 2012 at 12:43 PM
I am impressed by the thoughtful comments both pro & con regarding Rosewood Beach. I do have to weigh in about Mr. Greenberg's comments relative to the HP Rec Center. As a past member of Equinox, Multiplex & the Deerfield Chicago Health Club (now Ballys), I think the Rec Center is a wonderful alternative. I joined 4 years ago & do not regret my decision. Yes, I checked out LA Fitness when it first opened. Yes, it is larger & less money. I visited during an Open House promotion, I saw an unkempt locker room & a high pressure "join today or you'll pay more " sales tactic. I think Mike Shulewitz has done a great job managing the Rec Center & it is a gem of a facility. The track is free to the public & offers seniors (& those who cannot afford a membership) the opportunity to stay fit. I will continue to support the Rec Center with my membership.
David Greenberg May 07, 2012 at 10:33 PM
I agree, the Rec Center IS a nice facility. But as you agreed, LA Fitness is larger and less money. Sure, you saw an unkempt locker room, and got the sales pitch - but ultimately people compare the costs and other advantages/disadvantages and make their decisions accordingly. An unkempt locker room may have been a one-off event that you happened upon - such will occur in facilities all over the world. Unfortunately for the taxpayers of Highland Park, we have competitors to our new expensive Rec Center, and if the members don't pay the bills, the taxpayers will be expected to pick up the slack. We need to remain competitive in order to attract and retain members, so as to limit the burden to the taxpayers. If we can't remain competitive in the face of other facilities such that our costs are 100% covered, then I argue that we have no business subsidizing the facility and should either close it, or put it up for sale so the taxpayers can recoup their investment. The cost structure of a Rec Center is arguably different from that of a Park, and whereas a Park District would typically expect to cover a substantial amount of the costs of maintenance and operation from tax dollars for a PARK, one would not expect the same of a facility such as a Rec Center which is an indoor facility filled with equipment that has relatively short lifespans (such as workout machines, and the like).

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