To the Park District of Highland Park Board of Park Commissioners And Executive Director
November 4, 2010
Dear Board of Park Commissioners and Executive Director Ms. Liza McElroy,
We commend the Park District of Highland Park for turning its focus to the lakefront. The lakefront is our public treasure and a unique feature worthy of utmost respect and care. Many residents have chosen Highland Park as a place to live because it is a lakefront community. Only a fraction of the lakefront in Highland Park is in public use, which makes it even more important to take the best possible care of this treasure.
While the community and the Park District both seem to agree that the public lakefront needs improvement, we feel that the community interprets what beach improvement means very differently from the Park District. We are very concerned about Park District plans to construct a large building in the middle of Rosewood Beach. We find the proposed building inappropriate for this location. The only permanent structure that we see necessary for Rosewood Beach would be for public restrooms. Since Rosewood Beach is very short and narrow, no structure should stand directly on the beach; instead, a smaller structure could rather be situated more discretely somewhere by the parking so that lake views aren’t obstructed.
Here are some reasons why we strongly believe the proposed building plan for Rosewood Beach should not go forward:
1. The plan is at odds with our sentiment to enhance and retain the Jens Jensenesque natural look and feel of Rosewood Beach. We oppose the philosophy of installing large permanent structures on Rosewood Beach. Aesthetically, Rosewood Beach should dictate strict adherence to the rule that _ less is more;
2. The proposed building would obstruct lake views and impact the flow of foot traffic on the beach;
3. The proposed building would cut into the natural bluff and eliminate a significant section of the lower part of the bluff. Let the natural lines of the bluff by Lake Michigan be the dominant feature of Rosewood Beach;
4. We feel strongly that the public lakefront belongs to all. No part of a public beach should be compromised for the sake of any special group at the expense of the public at large and future generations. Installations, like the conference room in the proposed building for specialized groups at the Park District’s discretion, are not appropriate on Rosewood Beach;
5. Rosewood Beach is the only swimming beach in Highland Park. The main part of Rosewood Beach where people swim and sunbathe extends only approx 580’ south of the parking lot. Even at its deepest, the sandy beach at Rosewood is very shallow—maximum 100’ to 130’ from the edge of the asphalt walkway. The 101’ wide building for a footprint of 3500 square feet proposed by the Park District would take away space from the beach that people can use;
6. Designing a building that cuts into the base of the natural bluff would inevitably compromise the integrity of the bluff in the long run. This would be a costly proposition for our children and grandchildren to address;
7. Fighting the adverse natural conditions of the proposed building so close to the water line and cut into the bluff would require very high building and maintenance costs. These funds would be better spent on maintaining and enhancing the natural beach and the bluff.
Based on the comments made during the Park District public presentations regarding beach development in 2007, our strong feeling is that the current plan goes against repeated statements calling for an aesthetically appealing, natural-looking beach, as well as environmental awareness. Here is an open-ended list of improvements that we would like to see on Rosewood Beach:
a) Restoration of the significantly eroded coastline. This would include generating and implementing a feasible plan for replacing the metal groins on the public beach with breakwaters covered with boulders, replenishing the beach with new sand and more frequent combing of the sand. Our neighbors to the north that have suffered from similar beach erosion; Lake Forest, Lake Bluff and some private lakefront properties have successfully restored their coastlines;
b) Intensifying work on replanting the bluff with indigenous plants and clearing the bluff to open views of Lake Michigan from Rosewood Park;
c) Removing the wide asphalt walkway along the beach and substituting it with a walkway of natural materials ( stone, wood);
d) Replacing the existing dilapidated pier with something more aesthetically pleasing;
e) De-emphasizing the steel and concrete structures overlooking the lake at the end of the parking lot by the ravine outfall by covering these with natural materials and by adding landscaping with indigenous plants;
f) Covering any concrete walks and stairs with natural stone;
g) Improving the quality and removing the crumbling asphalt from the ravine walk by the beach;
h) Removing any large signs from the beach.