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Ravinia Neighbors Association Blog

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Open Letter to the Highland Park City Council

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

From The Ravinia Neighbors Association Governing Board

Dear City of Highland Park Council Members,

As the Park District of Highland Park (PDHP) comes before the city commissions and your council seeking accommodation for their proposed Interpretative Center (IC) at Rosewood Beach, we would like to ask that the city heed the wishes of the public, protect Highland Park's only swim beach and protect the safety and well being of the public that uses the swim beach. Though the Park District has chosen to ignore a large majority of those speaking out at public meetings, writing emails and signing petitions, it is our hope that the City Council, having no other agenda but to serve the citizens of Highland Park, will consider the complaints the citizens have against the IC and the ways in which this proposed facility is detrimental to Rosewood Beach.

The Park District is proposing an improper use of our land and city resources which compromises the well being of those who would like to use our city's only designated swimming beach. We find all other buildings and amenities in the PDHP's proposal to be in keeping with the swimming functions of Rosewood Beach. These swim related facilities are welcomed and should be passed and constructed without delay. However the IC is unpopular with the public for very good reasons, a few of which are listed below. Please stand with the citizens of Highland Park and protect their best interests. We ask that you use your authority to disallow the building of the Interpretive Center at Rosewood Beach.

WHY A FOUR -SEASON INTERPRETIVE CENTER SHOULD NOT BE BUILT AT ROSEWOOD BEACH

  1. IMPROPER LAND USAGE – Rosewood Beach is designated as our city's only swim beach. The addition of the Interpretive Center introduces competing needs that compromise access to and the use of swim facilities by the general public. The tranquility of this small beach will be compromised by noisy buses, higher traffic levels, increased parking problems, and resultant air pollution. As there are no sidewalks on the east side of Sheridan Road, usage of a beachfront building means difficult ingress and egress to and from Rosewood Beach. Increased traffic for competing use poses an increased risk of vehicle and pedestrian accidents.
  2. FISCALLY IRRESPONSIBLE — Locating this building in a hostile environment close to the water's edge means high initial construction costs and expensive ongoing maintenance costs, including heating, air conditioning and continual maintenance of the exterior due to predictable water and wind damage. Army Corps of Engineers guidelines state: "Avoid placing buildings and other structures where flooding, storm waves and erosion are likely to damage them or shorten their useful lives." This is not a wise expenditure of taxpayer dollars, and the Park District has no solid figures on projected revenue from public usage of this building.
  3. UNPROVEN NEED – The Park District has not polled the community thoroughly and has no evidence of widespread community demand for a 1,960 square foot structure. Residents should call for a city-wide referendum which would include projections for construction and maintenance expenses, as well as specific revenue projections. At the very least, the City or Park District should commission an unbiased survey done by an objective third party. The RNA's tally of a total 125 emails sent to the Park District from the public between May 2012 to present (which is what was supplied via FOIA request) shows only 26 residents expressing support for the Interpretative Center. This number includes anyone expressing support for the Interpretive Center, any kind of educational facility, camp facility, multipurpose room, venue for parties or revenue source, or anyone who spoke favorably of having a beach similar to the Glencoe and Lake Forest beaches. (A full accounting and summary of all emails turned over to the RNA can be found in the RNA Report of Email Responses to PDHP Regarding Proposed Rosewood Beach Project 6-26-12.) In contrast, 1100 petition citywide petition signatures call for a smaller development with only structures to support the swimming beach.
  4. NEGATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT – Rosewood Beach's delicate environment of forested bluff, sandy beach and lakeshore provides natural habitat for birds, fish and other animals. The waterfront varies year to year. A large, four-season structure will displace wildlife, destroy native plants, and endanger birds (who may fly into the large glass windows).
  5. OTHER OPTIONS TO MEET SAME GOAL – The Park District wants a venue to teach children about nature and provide a space for birthday parties and other gatherings. These activities could be performed in a smaller, open-air, three-sided shelter, with far lower construction and maintenance costs, and no need for heating and air conditioning. Such a beach shelter would provide a truly unique and enjoyable atmosphere setting, one that is more appropriate for the beach and sets a far better example of appreciating and adapting to nature. In addition, the opportunity exists for the Park District to purchase beach rights on a property north of the proposed building location, expanding the area available for beach activities by an additional 182 feet.

CONCLUSION: Ravinia Neighbors Association members have been involved in this issue for over two years. We would have given up long ago if we'd seen a groundswell of community support for a four-season, large structure on Rosewood Beach, but it does not exist. We cannot understand the Park District zeal for a costly and environmentally problematic structure that creates more harm than good.

The Ravinia Neighbors Association Governing Board — Sept 18, 2012