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Rosewood Beach Plans Look Wonderful

Why I am in favor of the Park District of Highland Park's Rosewood Beach Development Plans

The Park District of Highland Park recently launched a new plan for Rosewood Beach that will soon be shared in its entirety with the Highland Park Community.

Previous plans met with opposition from neighborhood groups and were considered out of touch with community needs, so the Park District chose to seek more input when formulating this next rendition.

I have been following this process and want to share it with readers.

The first step was to seek a new architect. So on March 20, 2011, the Park District sent out a Request for Qualifications (RFQ).

Next, they assembled, via an application process, a resident Task Force, whose first meeting was July 25, 2011. The meetings and feedback confirmed the Park District’s belief that residents wanted a refurbished beach with multi-purpose space.

Moving ahead, the Rosewood Beach Task Force recommended commissioning David Woodhouse Architects (http://www.davidwoodhouse.com/) to design the public space at Rosewood. The Park Board accepted their recommendation at their October 27, 2011 meeting.

 

New Building Locations

The Woodhouse plan offers three separate, small and harmonious structures to be nestled along a wooden boardwalk south of the parking lot. These buildings include restrooms/changing rooms with outdoor showers; a small concession stand; and a lifeguard/first aid station. These buildings would be seasonal, open only during the swim season. In addition, the plan includes a year-round glass enclosed multi-purpose beach house, connected to the wooden walk way and planned for the north side of the current parking lot. This building is to be heated, open year round (although a planned 1,000 sq ft interpretive space will not be open without staff present), have a restroom (THIS will be open year round) and be available for rental, with portable seating for 50. Because of limited parking, events will be scheduled off-season and when they do not conflict with summer beach use.

 

Beach restoration

From the Army Corps of Engineers, the Park District applied for and received funding from a Great Lakes Fisheries Restoration Initiative for restoration of the beach, bluffs, dunes and ravines. A series of natural harbors will be built to protect from sand loss. So…residents asked for a natural appearing lakefront (in the plans); more sand (ditto); restored native plantings (yes, including restoration of a rare microclimate at the NE portion of Rosewood Park); no more metal groins intruding into the water (check); and no more asphalt, but natural materials, at the lakefront and up the ravine walkway (check – but note that the historic Jens Jensen stone wall along the ravine will remain). There are also plans for a little observation deck over the area where the two ravines meet at the parking lot.  And the ravine waters final approach to the lake will be in daylight, not via the underground culvert.

 

Local tax impact

As this proposed development would be funded by grants and Park District reserves, there is no need for a referendum or additional tax revenue. Though the Corps grant requires 50 years of maintenance, Rick Stumpf said that these costs would be far less than the outlay required if the Park District were to maintain our beachfront without Corps assistance.

 

Time-line

After the two commissions (Natural Resources and Design Review) and Zoning Board of Appeals approve the plan, the project goes before City Council. Building construction would commence at the end of the 2012 swim season. The beach would be open as usual in 2013, and the Army Corps would begin their work at season’s end, with the new beachfront ready for us to enjoy the summer of 2014.

 

Imagining a New Lakefront

Imagine this: It is a hot summer day. Lake breezes beckon, so you head to the beach. From the parking lot you see the expanse of Lake Michigan before your eyes.  As you walk onto the beach, you see sand, not piles of difficult-to-maneuver-over-stones, at waters edge.  Behind you, along the bluff, there’s a little restroom/changing room (no more porta potty!!).  You don’t need them yet, but you notice outdoor showers and a small concession stand. After you put your blanket down and settle in your chair, you sigh, because the lake air is special and the beach is wonderful on so many levels.  And you note some friends are there, too. Lovely.

 

Imagine this: It is wintertime and you have come down to the beach at daybreak to stroll along the lakefront, feel the bracing air and watch what new ice formations have appeared since your last visit.  But, darn!  You had too much coffee and you think you need to go right home, until you notice the building to the north of the parking lot has a “restroom” sign and then you see that the building is open. Yes!  You can stay longer at the beach plus there’s a little educational exhibit in this (warm) building, describing some native plants that exist in our area, and how, after heavy summer rains and winter thaws, the parking lot’s permeable pavers clean and filter any rain or salty water that would otherwise go directly into the lake.  And, oh look, there are supposed to be trout in our ravines near the lakefront. Probably not now, though.  And where do trout go in the winter?  Perhaps there will be exhibit information on that as well.

 

Go and see for yourselves the Park District’s plans for our lakefront, so you can imagine how you would enjoy our revitalized lakefront. Two resident comment periods are coming up.  At West Ridge Center on May 2 at 7 PM; and at Heller Nature Center on Sunday, May 6 at 1:30 PM. Hope to see you there!

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.

David Greenberg May 02, 2012 at 10:48 PM
I always have to chuckle a bit when I hear someone say that they don't understand why the "vocal minority" doesn't want this or that. Didn't we hear similar arguments during the D113 Referendum debates? Turns out it was the "vocal majority". But I digress, the claims that the views are of a "vocal minority" are, simply that - claims by another person, with another point of view who's trying to make it seem that he's the majority and should be given more credence than those who are making their views heard. There's a lot of aspects to these debates - aesthetics, competition with other communities, and cost. Aesthetics are nice, but ultimately they're not a "gotta have", nor is competing with other communities just to keep up with with the Jones'. Dare I say that what we need to focus on is fiscal restraint. Our taxes are already sky high, and taxpayers all across Highland Park have been calling for relief. We don't have all the costs involved in building, maintaining, and operating these facilities for their expected lifetime. I've lived in Highland Park for about 40 years, and I plan to stay for at least another 40 to raise the kids. I'd like to see other young families move to Highland Park and enjoy what our community has to offer - but it's not going to happen if our taxes are too high. We've already reached a point of diminishing returns w/r/t our taxes, and we're pushing people away from HP. This has a negative effect on our quality of life and needs to stop.
Paul Smith May 03, 2012 at 02:37 PM
The online poll is meaningless as it allows people to vote more than once. Patch - you should not post polls if your systems can't prevent ballot stuffing. Doug - if the appearance/design of the shelter is not the issue, what is? For all the posts on patch from you and David Greenberg, I have yet to read a compelling case for why it shouldn't be there. I agreed with the RNA's opposition to the original proposal for the large building south of the parking lot but why oppose this much smaller building that will bring people to the beach year round?
Paul Smith May 03, 2012 at 02:39 PM
And Doug, I appreciate your honesty in admitting that you don't have an open mind for the shelter.
Doug Purington May 03, 2012 at 02:51 PM
The "shelter" is a nice concept; however, there's no place for it at Rosewood. If it finally ends up at another location, we will strongly support it! Issues like insufficient parking, maintenance costs, interference with the habitat zone, and not to mention the "hotbox" effect of the design with no breezes or sounds of the crashing waves permeating the edifice, all prevent us from supporting this portion of the project. People don't need a structure to enable them to "interpret" nature!
Ed Brill May 11, 2012 at 01:12 PM
At the Sunday hearing, I heard that the glass front for the design was intended to be sliding doors. So that addresses the "no...permeating the edifice". Maintenance costs - really? Maybe we should object to a lifeguard building as well then, they can do their job just fine from a chair. Or do we really need a paved roadway to the parking, maybe gravel would be less maintenance costs. Wouldn't we have maintenance costs if the building was on the bluff? Whose study says that there will be insufficient parking, and for what activities? The habitat zone is the only argument I've seen thus far that sounds plausible, but isn't that after all an arbitrary designation by the architects?

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