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Lakefront plan to get more airings

City officials moved the goal posts Thursday on the lakefront master plan process.

Greg Weykamp

Consultant Greg Weykamp points to lakefront plan features. 

Concerned about low turnout among those who don’t live close to the lakefront, Mark Metz, of the city’s Playground and Recreation Board, announced at what was to have been the final public workshop on the plan that the city plans to hold three additional meetings seeking public comment in different neighborhoods around town.

The draft preferred design presented at Thursday’s meeting tried to reach a consensus solution from among three alternative designs presented at public meetings last month.

Among the ideas that have so far survived the winnowing process are:

  • Gaining more park space at Clark Street Beach by rerouting Sheridan Road traffic onto Forest Place, Church Street and Judson Avenue so that Patriots Park and Lunt Park, now split from the lakefront by the road, can be merged into Centennial Park and Dawes Park.
  • Reducing Sheridan Road from four to two traffic lanes at Calvary Cemetery to provide more room for pedestrians and bikes.
  • Reducing congestion on the lakefront at Dempster Street by moving the kayak and carry-in sailboat storage and launch area to the north end of Clark Street beach, just south of the Northwestern University campus
  • Creating several "water trail" landing points at different beaches where kayakers could legally beach their boats temporarily.
  • Adding a cafe or gift shop at Lighthouse Beach to help generate revenue to support maintenance of the art center and other buildings on the site.
  • Adding new pedestrian-scale lighting throughout the lakefront designed to reduce glare so visitors can more easily see stars in the night sky, along with blue-light emergency phones to enhance security.
  • Expanding "dune ecology" and other native habitat planting areas at several locations in an effort designed to reduce long-term maintenance requirements and provide better shelter for migrating birds.

Clark Street

A rendering showing expanded parkland gained by rerouting Sheridan Road traffic. 

The latest version of the plan appeared to have substantial support among many of the roughly 80 people attending the session in the Civic Center’s Parasol Room, but it also drew some sharp criticism, notably from some power boat owners dismayed that the plan suggests eliminating the city’s only boat ramp for their use.

City consultant Greg Weykamp of EDAW, Inc., said said the existing ramp south of Church Street is in poor condition and would need to be rebuilt to remain in use.

Mr. Weykamp said coastal engineers have told the consulting team that there aren’t any good sites for a power boat ramp in Evanston, because water levels near the shoreline are too shallow.

But he said the best of a poor set of choices would be to build a new ramp at the north end of the Clark Street beach.

The draft plan shows a small ramp there, designed only for use by city emergency crews, but he said it could be expanded to handle more boats if the city chose to do so.

Dempster

The plan would keep tennis courts at Dempster Street, but move carry-in boat facilities. 

No schedule for the additional public meetings was announced. Once those are completed the plan will be subject to review by the Playground and Recreation Board, the City Council’s Human Services Committee and the full City Council.

The plan is designed to guide city development efforts along the lakefront for a decade or more. Except for a grant to fund expanded bike paths, no funding sources for implementing the projects have been identified yet.

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