Michael Arrington (center) his daughter Jennifer Breen (right) and his grandchildren Una, 4, (standing) and Dorthy, 2; his sister Pat Smythe (left) and nephew Steve Smythe (second from left) have dontated 00,000 from their family foundation toward the renovation of the lagoon at Dawes Park. Photo by Rachel Loyd

The family of the late W. Russell Arrington – longtime Evanston resident and legendary member of the Illinois House and leader of the Illinois Senate – has donated $500,000 toward the renovation of the lagoon at Dawes Park. When the project – estimated to cost about $1 million – is completed, the lagoon will be named the Arrington Lakefront Lagoon, if City Council approves.

With the lagoon as a backdrop, Sen. Arrington’s son Michael Arrington presented Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl with a letter of intent from the Arrington Foundation to donate the money for the refurbishing of the lagoon and its perimeter. Mr. Arrington said he and his sister, Patricia Smythe, “collectively made this decision” to donate the money to the City. “It’s very fitting that we’re honoring my father on this lakefront project. The waterfront is clearly one of Evanston’s major attractions,” he said.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said the donation reminds residents “to both celebrate Evanston’s other legacies and [honor] the “Arringtons’ fabulous contribution to the state and to the community.”

Third Ward Alderman Melissa Wynne said, “On this absolutely picture-perfect day, I want to thank the Arrington family and the Arrington Foundation for this gift to the City.”

State Representative Robyn Gabel said that Sen. Arrington was an advocate of rebuilding Illinois, an advocate for civil rights and one of the driving forces behind the Constitutional Convention held in the 1970s. State Senator Jeff Schoenberg thanked the Arrington family for the donation.

The City will likely contribute $100,000 of capital funds to the project and is seeking an additional $400,000 from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Stefanie Levine, who has been project manager on several renovations of City parks, said much of the project will involve infrastructure. The City has identified several areas: “plumbing, lagoon basin-system components; a stone waterfall; stonework and non-ADA-compliant pavements; site furnishing such as benches and trash receptacles; electrical components; landscaping and site-identification signage.”

Ms. Levine said that, since the park has not been renovated in the last 26 years, “a lot will depend on what is discovered in the design process.” She said, though, that the design will honor “the character of the site.” And, yes, she said, the plan is to keep a duck ramp from the island.

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...