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Lakefront changes drop like flies

The new plan for Evanston’s lakefront is starting to look a lot more like today’s lakefront.

City consultant Greg Weykamp told residents meeting at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center Thursday night that many proposals for dramatic changes to the lakefront that were part of the original draft of a new lakefront master plan will be dropped when a new version of the plan is presented next week.

Among the changes falling by the wayside:

* Rerouting Sheridan Road through traffic onto Judson from Church to Clark streets.
* Moving the power boat ramp from Church Street.
* Moving the carry-in boat storage area from Dempster Street.
* Major reconfiguration of the parkland in Centennial Park and at Clark Street beach.

About fifty people attended the meeting at Evanston’s west-side community center. Three groups seemed to dominate the crowd.

Residents of the lakefront district east of downtown generally decried changes planned for their area.

Residents of the area around South Boulevard beach mostly favored changes planned for their area, including narrowing Sheridan Road at Calvary Cemetery, although two residents who don’t live in that area expressed fears the roadway change would increase commuting times. The city consultants said engineers would run computer simulations of traffic in the area before any changes were made.

Boat ramp users, many from outside of Evanston, urged retention of the existing ramp and called for its expansion into a marina.

Parks Director Doug Gaynor said whatever form the plan ultimately takes, it will likely be 20 to 30 years before it is fully implemented.

The city has received a $500,000 federal grant for bike route improvements, and some improvements to Sheridan Road will likely be funded by the state next year as part of the planned transfer of control of the road to the city.

But other projects will have to compete for funding as part of the city’s long-range capital improvement program.

The consultants said that state officials will likely demand changes to the intersection at the north end of Patriots Park where traffic from the parking area rejoins the main roadway.

Neighbors, including David Reynolds, owner of the Homestead Hotel, rejected the consultants’ recommendation to close off that intersection and make what’s now one-way northbound traffic on Sheridan two-way as far south as Greenwood Avenue.

In that area Forest Avenue and Forest Place now form the main traffic artery.

Despite the sharp angle of the intersection at Patriots Park, residents said it is safer than the alternatives, which, they claimed, would create more traffic congestion at intersections further south.

Such a change might also create more traffic through the exclusive lakefront enclave.

Other lakefront residents objected to the consultants’ plan to add prairie grass to portions of the lakefront parks and widen the paved promenade around the Dawes Park lagoon.

Those changes may still be in the revised plan to be presented at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15, at the Civic Center.

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