The Chicago parks advocacy organization, Friends of the Parks, will host a planning meeting on expansion and enhancement of the Rogers Park lakefront parks, from Devon Avenue north to the Evanston border, tonight at approximately 6:30 pm at Loyola Park, 1230 W. Greenleaf, Chicago. The meeting will review plans developed in previous Design Charrettes held in March. The 5 designs developed for the northernmost stretch, posted in the last few weeks, can be viewed as a PDF document by clicking here.
Aspects of the plans and process have spawned some controversy and community organizing, especially those aspects suggesting building large additional lakefill and/or islands in the lake, mainly in the stretch south of Devon. Plans for that area can be viewed by clicking here.
An organization, Stop the Landfill, has mobilized around the issue and created a website, http://stopthelandfill.org/. Objections center on environmental, financial, public process, public access, and property-value concerns, including the possibility that an expansion of lakefill could serve as the basis for a northward extension of Lake Shore Drive, which currently terminates at Hollywood Avenue.
Lakefront plans have been a touchy subject and viewed with suspicion since at least 2004, when an architectural exhibit displayed ideas for a new lakefront in Edgewater and Rogers Park, including extending Lake Shore Drive, and after Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky had helped secure a federal grant for a feasibility study of a marina in south Evanston near Calvary Cemetery. Rogers Park activists organized a November, 2004 advisory referendum that resulted in a large vote against such plans.
Suggestions for adding to or filling in the lake in Edgewater or Rogers Park are not new. In the late 80s, after high lake levels and storms poured water onto the Drive and threatened some buildings close to the water, some suggested a series of barrier islands offshore. In 1990, Loyola University had already started to construct a lakefill expanding its campus near Hartigan Beach, until a federal court issued an injunction against the project, citing the public trust doctrine.
Currently, low water levels, not high ones, are a greater concern, and plans center around the creation of public space and access, although many feel that islands would actually reduce public access.
Friends of the Parks has issued a statement denying any intention to expand the Drive north, and president Erma Tranter advised me that the group is opposed to that. FOTP sees its privately-funded planning as laying the groundwork for long-term plans for future generations.
The public, including Evanston residents, is welcome at the event tonight. Ms. Tranter said the meeting is at 7 but the Stop the Lakefill group has it listed at 6:30.