Even after 31 public meetings on the proposed lakefront plan, there was still disagreement about going forward with the construction of a new facility at Clark Street Beach. First Ward Alderman Judy Fiske asked for at least a two-week delay so the matter could be further discussed, but Third Ward Alderman Melissa Wynne prevailed upon her colleagues to vote on June 22, and the measure passed 7-2.
The contract to construct the facility had a 60-day window, said Doug Gaynor, director of Parks/Forestry and Recreation, and the City had only until July 11 to lock in the prices under that contract.
The new facility would be much bigger than the present one, because, in addition to housing washrooms, it would serve as the gateway to the beach, accommodate a small concession stand and have some space for lifeguards to take a breather off the beach and out of the sun.
Ald. Fiske said she had “heard from a lot of people about the [facility]. … I don’t think there is anyone who is opposed to improved restrooms, but people in the First Ward want a more modest restroom here and along the lakefront. … First Ward people thought the project would not go forward.” She said the cost was too great and would “make other lakefront parks go without new washrooms for 20 years.” She also said she felt the traffic design was “poor” and did not sufficiently consider safety. In addition, she said, the City should consider “risk management,” because the City could face litigation if the other bathrooms and beaches are not ADA-compliant.”
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, who supported the restroom project, said, “Even people in the Eighth Ward like to go there. We don’t look to you, Judy, to run the beach. I know how your people feel about people coming to the beach.”
Holly Reynolds, who lives along the lakefront in the First Ward, said, “It will be wonderful to see wheelchair access at the lakefront. But, coordinate the Lakefront Plan with theSheridan Road
[reconstruction] plan. Also, be careful about vulnerability on ADA. If there is no access at other beaches, the City is vulnerable to a lawsuit.”
Mr. Gaynor said, however, that the City had coordinated the Clark Street Beach project with the repairs alongSheridan Road
In addition, Martha Logan of the City’s Parks/Forestry department said theGreenwood Street
beaches are already accessible. “People can take a stroller or wheelchair down to the water. Also, [crews] are “working on the ramp and pathway at Lighthouse Beach to make that accessible. So when Lighthouse andClark Street
beaches are accessible, four beaches will be accessible down to the water.”
Mark Sloane of the City’s Parks and Recreation Board urged the Council to approve the bid for the washroom facility. “It will provide a safe way to collect beach fees; indoor places for breaks for lifeguards; a concession stand, which will give additional revenue; and year-round bathrooms.”
Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, who also opposed going forward with the washroom facility, said he had a “problem with the lakefront’s being a priority right now. I don’t know how that happened. Look at [the needs of] Robert Crown Center. And I have a problem with the exclusivity of the lakefront: The parking is limited and there is limited activity at the lakefront.”
Ald. Rainey said the lakefront was not a “priority” but that the City had not invested funds in the lakefront for some time – “It’s the lakefront’s turn.”
The aldermen voted 7-2 to go forward with the contract for the new Clark Street Beach washroom facility.