As of the summer of 2011, the Park District has turned its attention, for the third time in recent years, to the development of Rosewood Beach and a task force has been appointed to help select the architectural firm for the project. Once the architectural firm is selected and the design is completed, construction will quickly commence. The Park District has adequate funds for development for this single beach and will not need to pass a referendum. (A first proposal to develop Rosewood Beach, along with other HP beaches, failed to pass a public referendum in November of 2008.)
One factor that Park District officials have cited as dictating a quick turn around time for this development is the arrival of the Army Corp of Engineers to help shore up the deteriorating beach and restore habitats. This is a wonderful development, welcomed by all, and we believe precipitated by the outcry for environmental considerations that RNA put forth in 2010. Though it would seem that the Army Corp of Engineers might lend insights for a new development, the Park District has made a case for having their building completed before the Corp comes in and this will serve to hasten the process of the proposed development. The time for the public to become aware and vocal regarding the proposed development is now.
Though the over-sized scale of the proposed permanent building along with the resulting compromises to the beach and bluff were significant factors in the failure of the 2010 proposal to be approved by the City of Highland Park’s Design Review Committee, the Park District has remained steadfast in its vision. Park District officials have likened their desired development to a version of Heller Nature Center on the Lake. The design task force has been instructed that the Park District sees Rosewood Beach as the opportunity to create a “signature facility”. And so, as the third round of design gets under way, the Park District is forfeiting nothing and directing architects to design a structure with the very same program considerations that drove the size to a problematic 3500 sq. ft. in the second round.
The Park District states that a 1000 sq. ft. conference room and “interpretative center” is necessary. The omission of this feature would cause the loss of grant money in the amount of $200,000. It is commendable of the Park District to pursue grant money. Even so, it needs to be remembered that these funds are conditioned on the building meeting many criteria, the demands of which are driving the overall development to a considerably larger scale. In the end, tax money would pay for the remaining $2,200,000 required for their expanded plan.
It is also commendable that the Park District would seek to provide teaching facilities for children vis-à-vis an interpretative center. However, learning, especially about a natural environment, need not happen in a permanent, enclosed space. Children could learn right on the beach, utilizing temporary awnings, or a local school for adverse weather (as is done with other outdoor park district camps). It would be a perverse irony for a learning center aimed toward understanding, appreciating and preserving the environment to be the very source of the natural environment’s degradation. (What educational display teaching about erosion or the lakefront bluffs could possibly be appropriate in a building carved into the side of a bluff? What educational display would be appropriate in a building erected on a narrow sandy beach that sans protection and costly sand replenishment keeps being washed away?)
Beyond the conference room/ interpretive center, the Park District would like a guard station/ guest services/first aid room, restrooms, indoor showers, concessions and related storage area, storage for life guards, interior refuse and janitor and mechanical rooms within the permanent enclosed structure. While some of these represent more reasonable beach functions than the conference room/ interpretative center, it is very possible for some of these functions to be accommodated outside the permanent enclosed space. It is possible that some functions, such as concessions, could be accommodated during the swim season only, with portable elements placed on a stone terrace extending beyond the permanent structure. Outdoor changing booths could be considered as well as outdoor showers to keep the footprint of the building smaller. Other spaces, such as the mechanical room for heating and air conditioning equipment could also be eliminated altogether.
As we consider how Rosewood Beach is to be best enjoyed it is necessary to remember that it is a small beach, 915 feet long with depths ranging from 100 to 130 feet to the asphalt walk way. The beach has, in fact, has become notably smaller in the last 40 to 50 years as eroding beaches are an ongoing problem in Highland Park and other lakefront communities. Although there may be many contributing factors, a recent New York Times article points to building development as the prime culprit in beach erosion. We need to seriously consider what we feel must build on this site.
The proposed development comes at far too great a cost. We are opposed to the cutting away of the bluff and the future erosion and maintenance problems that would be an on going concern with the Park Districts approach. We object to the loss of lake views. We object to the interruption to foot traffic and a path currently used for strolling along the beach. We object to a significant loss of sandy beach with the added threat of further erosion. We object to the commercialization of this space, one of the few relatively unspoiled natural sanctuaries in our city where people can escape the influences of business and cultural in their everyday lives. We feel that Rosewood Beach can not reasonably accommodate the increased functions and larger development proposed by the Park District.
If you share our views, please sign our petition Sign Petition
To see drawings of the 2010 design proposed or to view photos of existing beach conditions and read more on the reasons a large building is detrimental to Rosewood beach, Read the post Rosewood Beach Needs Improvement.