Aldermen on Evanston’s Human Services Committee voted this week to increase the number of free beach tokens available for distribution through social service agencies by 25 percent next year.

Aldermen on Evanston’s Human Services Committee voted this week to increase the number of free beach tokens available for distribution through social service agencies by 25 percent next year.

After complaints that the city was unfairly closing off beach access to low-income residents, the city in 2006 provided the agencies 700 tokens and increased that number to 840 this year. Assuming the full City Council approves the latest change, the number of free tokens available next year will be 1,050.

Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said, “If we assume that people who can’t afford to buy tokens aren’t buying them now, then we’re not losing any money” with the free token program “as long as it doesn’t raise the number of beachgoers so much that we need more lifeguards.”

Parks Director Doug Gaynor said the city “had a very good year” this year for beach token sales, despite the increase in available free tokens, but said token sales vary a lot from year to year depending on the weather.

In an average year slightly over 16,000 people, or just over 20 percent of Evanston residents, buy resident beach tokens. This year 16,863 resident tokens were sold. The city also sells another 20,000 daily passes over the course of the summer.

Mr. Gaynor said the city raises about $500,000 each year from beach token sales, which just about covers the cost of keeping the beaches open and staffed.

Token prices range from $15 for a late-season resident token to $54 for a regular season non-resident token.

Don Baker, executive director of Youth Organiations Umbrella, which distributed 137 tokens this year, nearly twice as many as it had in 2006, said, “We gave tokens to people who’d never been to the beach before.”

He said his agency could definitely use more tokens. “We see 500 kids, 70 to 80 percent of them on the free or reduced lunch program. They don’t all want a beach token, but there are a substantial number of kids who’ve never had a token and would like to. There are a lot of families who don’t use the beach because of the cost.”

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, said she didn’t want to see the city impose any additional recordkeeping requirements on the agencies, which have generally distributed the tokens to families who are existing clients of the agency whose financial status therefore is already known to the agency.

“One of the reasons I think this has worked so well is that we don’t have tons of paperwork. I would not support any program that requires agencies to have all sorts of documentation that we concoct,” Ald. Tisdahl said.

The city has also offered half-price beach tokens to low income families through a program that provides similar scholarships for other recreation department programs.

Participants in that program, which distributed 110 tokens this year, have to fill out a form and provide proof of their low-income status.

Not all the free tokens available this year were actually distributed. Of the 840 available, 753 were used. Human Services Director Jay Terry said one agency ran into staffing problems and failed to distribute any tokens, but most of the other 10 groups involved came close to using their full allocation.

Mr. Terry said the city staff is planning to expand publicity efforts for the program next year.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Daily passes
    Though I’d welcome a more accessible beach, I’m not sure that free beach tokens are really the way to go here. Why don’t we give away one-day passes, and quite a bit more of them? In this way, we could offer a lot more people access to the beach without having to increase costs.

  2. Free beach tokens = another mismanaged city program
    Giving out free beach tokens by the city social service agencies is not fair – nor do we know that they are even being properly distributed.

    Alderperson Tisdahl does not want any record keeping? If one agency did not give them out at all what to say the other agencies gave them away correctly?

    The council members see this as free money – so to speak – how do they see the fire and police pension mess? Which they are responsible for creating. It is programs like this that have wasted staff time over the years and not dealing with the operation of the city that have ended up putting the city in a mess.

    There are over 7,000 people in this town in proverty – why not give everyone of them a free beach token?

    Is the city going to be responsible if a kid droughts at the beach if a agency gave the token without parent’s consent? You better belief it!

    I for one think the system in place before with one free beach day a week at one beach was enough. It allowed anyone to use the beach.

    Also anyone can go to the beach in the morning before they open or at night before dark to sit there. So access was not really all that limited.

    Nor are free pass the answer unless we want to give them away to everyone in town.

    1. Totally misguided City Council
      I think that I am living in Alice’s Wonderland.

      We have bands of 10-12 young people, roaming our supposedly vibrant downtown and beating up random individuals that they don’t know. All this happens while members of this violent group are yelling race-based hate language, including I don’t want to deal with the white man. The victims are winding up in the hospital.

      But the City Council, off in some fantasy land, is spending time discussing how to have more give-aways of our tax dollars. The beach tokens are not free.

      So will we be opening up the beaches for these thugs to beat up families with small children? Without any record keeping (talk about a dumb, ridiculous idea to not require record keeping), it could happen.

      Maybe we can get Eb Moran to give away more money for low-income housing. We already have more than double the low-income housing of any suburb near us or anywhere on the North Shore.

      We need more money for police protection. We need lots more money for the police and fire pensions.

      Can we get a read on whether the alderman are paying any attention to what is happening in Evanston?

      They appear to be completely clueless. And, as someone who pays taxes in this city, I am getting tired of it.

      Chicago is getting 100 new cops and 100 new street cameras. What is Evanston getting for its money?

  3. Beach Tokens
    Another in a long line of Evanston scams—Why should we have to pay for them in the first place?—Taxed up the yazoo yet we still have to pay more to to go to the freakin beach—less i forget to mention once there there’s e-coli and the never ending list of gestapo rules—the dog beach is better than the human beaches—woof woof

  4. Low-income residents do not equate criminals
    As a five-year Evanston resident, I am continually disappointed with the amount of intolerance and ignorance portrayed by high-income “educated” residents. The latest is this blog entry, which assumes that offering more free tokens to low-income residents means that violent incidents will inevitably occur at the beach. This ignorant comment is based on the assumption that low-income people are innately violent. It also completely negates the proactive aspect of such an action: that it will offer a positive alternative to youth who don’t have the luxury to afford activities that sometimes keep upper-class kids out of trouble. Note the word “sometimes.”

    1. Note the use of the word sometimes
      No one here has suggested that low income residents are innately violent. Please re-read the posts because it appears that you did not grasp the argument.

      Without any record keeping, the City could be giving free beach tokens to convicted violent criminals or those who have arrest warrants outstanding or known gang members.

      Not in every case but sometimes, it could happen.

      It is not ignorant to assume that when you hand out free city services to anyone who asks, sometimes the freebies will wind up in the wrong hands. So yes, we could have increased violence on our beaches by handing out beach tokens to anyone who asks for them.

      Let’s explore your naivete: do you really think that giving a free beach token to someone (as part of a pack of people) who beats a stranger unconscious (just after yelling something about not wanting to deal with the white man) will suddenly be transformed into a law-abiding citizen by giving him a beach token? If so, please tell that battered victim about your plan for reforming these young people.

      Take offense all you like. But, sadly, you are living in fantasy land if you believe that we are doing our community any favors by handing out more free city services without knowing who is receiving them.

      1. I did not say that a free
        I did not say that a free token would transform violent people. I said services such as these offer low-income youth an alternative: “low-income youth” in general, not the violent low-income youth you fear. Social services and free community programs can have a positive influence on low-income youth IN GENERAL and yes they can even keep an at-risk kid out of trouble. Kids who already have had problems with the law need much more than that obviously.

        If you want to track young criminals who get free city services, why stop there? If the real issue is criminal youth, then keep tabs on high-income criminal youth who sell drugs, use drugs, and have committed violent crimes. Should they be allowed to go to the beach just because their parents can afford it and your tax dollars aren’t involved?

        If you keep them out, residents can have a peaceful day at the beach and continue to live in their own fantasy land where “bad things” don’t happen in Evanston.

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