HIGHLAND PARK – The City Council and Park District met Feb. 8 and Feb. 9 to discuss access to Park Avenue Beach for boaters. Mayor Nancy Rotering said she thought the engineering study indicated that closing the west road would still allow continued access to the beach. However, Park Board President Scott Meyers said the engineering study showed that two-way traffic is unsafe when there are many vehicles pulling trailers.
The Park District wants to eliminate power boats so that the public can safely gain access to Park Avenue Beach outside of the security fence of the Water Treatment Plant.
City Councilman and Park District liaison Anthony E. Blumberg, along with representatives from the city, the Park District and the former Park Avenue Task Force have formed an ad hoc working group to develop strategies for a solution. Members of the group include Ghida Neukirch, city manager; Scott Meyers, park board president; Liza McElroy, park district executive director, and four appointed members from the former Task Force. They will meet on Feb. 16 to continue the conversation.
“At the last working group meeting we just flushed out the operational issues,” said David Multack, former vice chairman of the Park Avenue Task Force. “Blumberg made it known before the meeting that the west road option was off the table.”
Multack said the boating groups and other residents are planning to attend the next Highland Park City Council meeting on Feb. 22 to see if the city has reconsidered keeping the west road open or adopting the “4 percent solution.” This solution was created by the former Task Force to keep the west road open for Highland Park Fire Department rescue boats, sailboats, kayaks and power boats on weekends and holidays during the busiest seasons.
After the Feb. 8 City Council meeting, boating enthusiasts joined forces again the next evening at the Park District workshop to discuss viable options for trailered boats.
The following is a sampling of the most frequently asked questions that Scott Meyers, park board president addressed at the workshop:
Is the Park District or the city planning to close Park Avenue Beach or restrict all public access to this facility?
Meyers: No. This entire issue relates solely to whether and to what extent there will be trailered vehicles at Park Avenue Beach once the city closes the west road and puts up a gate and fence. Neither the city nor the Park District has announced any plans to restrict access for anyone other than with respect to trailered vehicles.
Does the Park District agree with the city’s position that it is necessary to close the west road in order to protect the Water Treatment Plant?
Meyers: The city has not shared any of the security data with the Park District and thus we have no basis to form an opinion one way or the other. We have accepted the city’s position on this issue, and have attempted to work around it to find a solution. I was surprised to hear last night that the city’s anticipated barrier will be a chain link fence, as I was expecting something more substantial. I was also very impressed with a number of the suggestions from the public that the city could consider to provide security. The Park District stands ready to work with the city to facilitate alternative security procedures that would not require closing the west road.
Is the city correct that there is a traffic study that shows two-way traffic is safe on the east road at Park Avenue Beach?
Meyers: No. Although consulting engineers Gewalt Hamilton Associates, Inc. did develop and study four traffic options including two-way traffic, this study did not conclude that providing two-way traffic on the east road at Park Avenue Beach would be safe. To the contrary, this study concluded that on a safety scale of 0-5 (5 being the highest), these four traffic options rated no higher than a two for vehicle-to-pedestrian accidents and no higher than a three for vehicle-to-vehicle accidents.
What is your response to the city’s claim that this is all the Park District’s problem, and the city has nothing to do with boating?
Meyers: This is not a boating issue, it is a public safety issue. I wish it was solely the Park District’s problem because we could then fix it on our own. But as it turns out, because we do not own the land, or even have a lease, and cannot control the west road, nor any of the other roads or security procedures around the Water Treatment Plant, we will definitely need the city’s help to solve this.
The discussion continues at the next City Council Meeting on Monday, Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Friends of Park Avenue Beach