Evanston is failing to make its lakefront accessible for all, Alderman Coleen Burrus told a panel on lakefront protection Wednesday night.
The city charges people to go on the beach, she said, so many people don’t go.
It offers some free beach tokens, “but that puts people at a disadvantage and embarrasses kids who have to ask their parents to fill out a form to get free tokens.”
It doesn’t allow rentals of umbrellas or chairs, forcing people who might travel to the beach on public transportation to carry those unwieldy items with them.
And she suggested that “protecting” the lakefront, as is commonly defined, has the effect of excluding people from poorer neighborhoods further away from the lake.
Gazing out at a crowd drawn by the protection theme, she noted that all of the 60 or so people in the audience were white, although more than a third of Evanstonians are not.
“It’s drive-by diversity,” Burrus said, “We really aren’t an integrated community.”
“If we’re going to talk about access, we should open it up to everyone.”
Top: Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward. Above: First Ward activist Jeanne Lindwall and Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, were among those in the audience for the panel discussion.
She suggested that the city could provide free beach access cards to all residents, while still charging out-of-towners a fee.
She also suggested that the city’s decision to have a single food vendor on the lakefront stifles opportunities to provide healthy food choices.
“We have one vendor that serves junk food and has no competition,” Burrus said. “Why don’t we have someplace where people could pick up apples, vegetables or good sandwiches?”
Panelist Martin Jaffe.
Another panelist, University of Illinois at Chicago professor Martin Jaffe, said the city’s 2008 lakefront plan discourages any expansion of parking along the lakefront — so the city’s official policy now is to restrict access to the lakefront by automobile.
Since the lakefront is only heavily used in the warmer months, he suggested the city could consider temporary solutions, like a trolley system to remote parking areas to encourage more lakefront use.
And Jaffe noted that the City of Chicago — though it has a lower average household income than Evanston — provides free access to its beaches.