Open lakefront from Evanston to Indiana?

Proposal would connect city's lakefront parks, beaches
June 10, 2009 4:20:38 AM PDT
There's a plan to open the last four miles of Chicago's lakefront to the public. The proposal would create two miles of new parks and beaches near the Evanston border, and then two more miles of lakefront development to the south, stretching to the Indiana border.

But not everyone supports the idea. Residents who live on private beaches are not big fans of opening the lakefront to the public.

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The park advocacy group Friends of the Park has come up with the plan to complete the lakefront. The costly proposal is the culmination of four years of work with architects and engineers as well as public hearings with residents.

Tossing a rock into the lake can only be done from the rocks on the far south end of Chicago's lakefront; there are no beaches, bike or walking paths here. Friends of the Park says it's time to change that by honoring Daniel Burnham's vision of opening all 30 miles of the lakefront to the public.

"The Last 4 Miles is a project to create 500 acres of parks on Chicago's lakefront to complete all the work that's been done by previous generations," said Erma Tranter, Friends of the Parks.

The plan calls for a continuous lakefront trail from the Indiana border all the way to Evanston. Two miles on both ends are interrupted with industry, residential high- and low-rises and pockets of public beaches.

"There are many isolated parks and street end beaches that we have connected together in a very simple way," said Peter Kindel, project architect.

But the cost of the plan is not cheap. Completing an uninterrupted lakefront will run between $350 and $450 million.

Friends of the Park president Erma Tranter says the project will be done over time.

"This does not call for increases in property taxes at all, but it would be done incrementally over a decade," said Tranter.

Lifelong South Chicago resident Rod Sellers believes the project is well worth the money.

"For years this community has been a place where industry was located, we had problems with pollution. Later on it was the area where they put the landfills in Chicago. How about putting some additional park land in this area? We would love it," said Sellers.

But on The North Side not everyone is loving it. Gary Roe lives in a Rogers Park condo that sits on a private beach. He calls this area one of Chicago's best kept secrets and Roe wants to keep it that way.

"I'm totally against this plan. There's already 26 miles of public areas and you've got a few private areas here. We just want to keep it clean, neat," said Roe.

Friends of the Park's Erma Tranter says 70 percent of the residents her organization polled support the plan. Tranter was vague about funding the project, only to say the current lakefront was created in much tougher economic times than today. The Park District supports the idea of completing the lakefront, but a spokesperson says the city does not support this specific plan.

The proposal would include this property on the South Side ( Current South Side Parks | Proposed South Side Design )

  • Gap between the South Shore Cultural Center (71st) and Rainbow Beach (75th)
  • Former USX steel plant site (79th & 87th)
  • Iroquois Landing (north of Calumet Park)
  • The proposal would include property on the North Side (Current North Side Parks | Proposed Edgewater Designs | Proposed Rogers Park Designs)

  • Edgewater
  • Rogers Park
  • The proposal is expected to garner a lot of opposition, especially from those who own the private shoreline. Other plans have failed because of concerns about extending Lake Shore Drive or adding buildings, such as marinas and boathouses to the lake, however Friends of the Parks said those additions are not the plan.

    The group has not released an estimate on cost.


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