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Great Lakes Article:

Residents invited to give ideas on use of lakefront
By Kenneth L Patchen
Highland Park News
Published May 18, 2006

Highland Park and Park District of Highland Park officials have set in motion a planning process to help residents redefine use of the Lake Michigan lakefront as a recreation resource.

Residents are invited to meetings to identify ideas for lakefront use and ways to develop public uses.

Meetings will be held at 7 p.m. May 23 and at 9:30 a.m. May 24 at the Highland Park Country Club, 1201 Park Avenue West. Residents who plan to attend should call (847) 831-381-3155 or by e-mail at More information is at

Tuesday evening's session will consist of discussion groups hosted by members of the League of Women Voters of Highland Park intended to identify issues and solutions and make recommendations. Wednesday's session will feature panels with area, regional, state and national environment and recreation professionals, including the Great Lakes Cities Initiatives, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Openlands, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Chicago Park District.

Highland Park is one of 14 communities out of 1,200 in Illinois with access to Lake Michigan. Ten percent of the Illinois Lake Michigan shoreline is within its city limits. The city's four beaches -- Rosewood, Park Avenue, Millard, Moraine -- represent about one mile of shoreline. Although the city has about 11,000 homes, only 30 of them are located on the lakefront.

Now the Park District wants to work with residents to take advantage of this special resource. To help guide discussions about lakefront use, the consulting firm JJR has been hired for $67,000 to guide officials and residents through the planning process. JJR is a national firm with professionals from the fields of landscape architecture, planning, urban design, civil engineering and environmental science.

Topics to be covered include:

* Ecological factors affecting lakefront use

* Existing programs to protect and enhance waterfront areas

* Water quality impacts, erosion and beach protection

* Recreational and educational opportunities.

"Developing and realizing a vision for our lakefront parks must be a true community-wide effort," said Park District President Stacy Weiss. "We want to involve a broad range of people with a diversity of ideas to make the most of this magnificent resource."

Many years ago in Highland Park, residents and their children spent their summers at the lakeshore.

Park Commissioner Lorenz Werhane Jr. said, when he was a youngster, the biggest decision of every summer day involved which of the four city beaches he and friends would go to. They were at the beach from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and their moms would bring a lunch.

"We just had a ball," Werhane said. "It was a continuous adventure."

Highland Park City Council Member Jim Kirsch said, "Back in time, when I was young in this community, there was an era when everybody in town went to the beach. It was a time that pre-dated waterparks and camps."

The current Park District planning effort, with the support of the city, is expected to allow community residents to begin a return to their lakefront and its recreation potential.

Council member Steven W. Mandel said the planning process now getting underway is a "blank canvas" so all ideas can be placed on the table. Residents need to be able to interact with the lake, he said, because it is an important part of what the community is all about.

Whatever the District does to increase use of the waterfront, Executive Director Ralph Volpe said, it will be done in a way to remain a good neighbor with adjacent property owners. He expects projects to be well done and to fit the image of the community.

"It will be an enhancement," Volpe said.

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