Highland Park beach plan surges forward
Updated: September 12, 2012 11:54AM
HIGHLAND PARK — Residents of Highland Park largely agree on the need to protect Rosewood Beach from further shrinkage. There’s also considerable consensus that some beach amenities are needed to replace a beachhouse that was demolished in 2006.
But the Park District of Highland Park’s plan to construct an enclosed educational center with lake vistas at the suburb’s only swimming beach has created deep rifts in the community.
The park board voted 5-0 Thursday night to move forward with the conceptual plans from David Woodhouse Architects, after hearing more than two dozen speakers mostly voice opposition.
“The proposal, as a whole, is not objectionable at all,” said Eve Tarm, a vice president of the Ravinia Neighbors Association, noting there is wide agreement about the need to protect and improve a beach that “is beyond shabby at this point.
“However, the park district is only willing to do it if they throw in their plan for an interpretative, educational and multipurpose facility,” said Tarm, who served on the Rosewood Beach Task Force.
The controversy revolves around a 1,950-square-foot center at the north end of the beach that has been variously described as an interpretive center, a beach shelter and a multipurpose center/beachhouse. Park officials say the building, with a room of floor-to-ceiling glass looking onto the lake, could be used for yoga classes, birthday parties and other events. The center also would serve as a meeting place for camps and educational groups exploring the ecosystem. Interpretive wall panels explaining the beach restoration and lake ecosystem allow the project to qualify for grants.
The project, estimated to cost $4.7 million, also would provide new restrooms, a concession stand and a lifeguard house. A boardwalk, the most expensive feature of the plan, would run from the center to the other structures. About $850,000 of the cost would come from grants, and park officials say the remainder can be financed from reserves without requiring a tax increase.
Recently, a new group called Friends of Rosewood sprouted up to counter the perception that the Ravinia Neighbors Association was speaking for all area residents.
“Some of us with children have a different perspective, and we wanted to make that known,” said Michelle Holleman, one of the organizers. “Once the facility is built, it is going to be overwhelmingly positive.”
If the final plans comply with city codes and receive city design review approval, construction would begin in the spring of 2013. A coastline restoration project spearheaded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been moved up on the Corps’ priority list and is expected to occur concurrently with the park district improvements.
To protect the beach and bluff areas from further deterioration, the corps will bring in barges of sand, doubling the size of the beach; and construct a natural stone breakwall in place of steel groins. The park district would contribute 35 percent of the cost.
The park district has been eyeing redeveloping Rosewood Beach for five years. In 2010, park officials backed off plans for a 4,000-square-foot bathhouse and pavilion after the city’s design and review commission felt it was too big and detracted from the setting.
Tarm says the downscaled plan is a big improvement, but still too much for a swimming and recreational beach.