City to charge for lakefront parking

May 16, 2009 The Chicago Park District is going to add pay boxes and start charging $1 per hour at six parks, and the move is angering people who use the beachfront recreation spots.

Rates will also increase at lakefront parking lots that already have meters.

Free parking will be eliminated at Foster, Montrose, 31st Street, 63rd Street, Rainbow and South Shore beaches.

"This is where people should come and relieve their stress and relax and not pay money," said Alex Mukanda, who loves to take walks along Montrose Street Beach with his sister and grandnephew.

Mukanda is among a growing number of Chicago residents unhappy about having to pay for a parking spot along the lake. By fall, the Chicago Park District will begin charging for more than 4,400 lakefront parking spots.

Frequent lakefront visitor John Wicklein says the latest money grab by the city is outrageous.

"I can understand when they do it on the street, businesses for the turnover. But here is one of the last few places where you can go and enjoy and park for free," he told ABC7 Chicago.

The park district board, which is appointed by the city's mayor, approved the measure Wednesday and defends the new three-year fee deal as necessary, saying it will bring in $700,000 the first year and could eventually generate as much as $1.5 million dollars a year. That would keep the district from having to lay off more workers, cut services or raise other fees.

"The park district is doing that in certain locations, revenue and things like that, and it's a much better system for them," Mayor Richard Daley said.

Park District officials add that the parking rate at six lots from the museum campus, North to Loyola Park, will increase to $1 each hour.

Pay boxes that will accept credit cards or cash will soon be installed at lots and street parking spots along the lake.

"It puts a damper on things in a recession. A dollar an hour. You come back and have a 50-dollar ticket. It's not worth it," Maureen Popp said.

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