Evanstonians are fortunate that previous generations of civic-minded citizens had the foresight to ensure that precious open spaces and our lakefront would remain in the public domain so that we can take advantage of their health, economic and aesthetic benefits. The beaches and parks are maintained and upgraded; Recreation Department programs serve citizens of all ages; bike and walking paths along the lakefront are accessible year-round; and the quiet places we treasure are there when we need them.
In 2013 when one of our lakefront parks was threatened with privatization, the current generation of Evanston citizens rose up and, in one voice, said, “No.”
It is now up to us citizens to remain vigilant and ensure that our precious open spaces remain in the public domain and are protected from any threats of privatization in the future.
The City of Evanston is currently in negotiations with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to purchase the Harley Clarke mansion at Lighthouse Landing Park to house the department’s Coastal Management Program. This program is designed to assure that the Great Lakes and its shoreline are protected from further degradation and to educate the public on the importance of protecting the Great Lakes and its coastline. We believe that this mission is consistent with the above tenets that the house and park in which it is located will remain for the public, under public control, and will serve the public in preserving our natural resources.
We wholeheartedly agree with the Evanston Roundtable’s editorial of Sept. 10, “What IDNR Can Do for Evanston” (at evanstonroundtable.com), stating why the use of the Harley Clarke mansion by the Coastal Management Program would be beneficial to Evanston To reiterate a few of their salient points:
“Parts of the 63 miles of Lake Michigan shore in Illinois have been ravaged by decades of industrial and commercial use; in other places the shoreline has been kept for the people or is being restored as ecologically as possible.’”
“IDNR says it invests in programs that ‘seek to restore our ecosystems and meet the increasing demands for open space, recreation and public access.’ Its stated priorities are addressing invasive species, both on land and in the water; restoring habitats, ecosystems and natural areas; mitigating the toxic remnants from former industries; promoting sustainable development; promoting good storm-water management; and improving public access and recreation along the shore and in the water.’”
“IDNR has funded projects in Evanston: some of the bicycle paths, for example, and the renovation of the Church Street boat ramp.”
(Further information about IDNR and the Coastal Management Program is available on the IDNR website indr.illinois.gov.)
During City Council discussion leading to authorizing the City Manager to negotiate with IDNR, Evanston Parks and Lakefront Alliance (EvPLA) presented several points we would like to see included in any agreement between IDNR and the City. The Roundtable, in its Sept. 10 editorial, added to our list. The RoundTable’s suggestions include the following:
• The land leased should be limited to that near the buildings and not include the front, back or side lawns, the parking lot, the sand dunes or the beach.
• The lease should be for 25-33 years and renewable only if IDNR adheres strictly to all of its terms.
• The lease should not be assignable; no sublease should be allowed.
• IDNR should be required to rehab the buildings, since the sale is premised on IDNR’s need to own the buildings in order to obtain funds to do the rehab.
• The buildings must be maintained to City standards of preservation and property maintenance.
• The buildings must be kept for public use; IDNR should not be allowed to sell the buildings.
• The buildings should automatically revert to the City if and when IDNR has no more use for them.
• IDNR’s use of any Evanston beaches or parks must be approved by City Council after public input. Any such use must be in conformance with the Lakefront Master Plan.
• Evanston residents should be assured that some spaces for classes and activities offered by IDNR will be reserved for public school students and other Evanstonians.
• No permanent structures should be put up in the parks, at the beaches or on the sand. IDNR must obtain approval from City Council before it erects temporary structures of any kind.
• Any changes to the dunes, the shorefront or the lakefront habitat must be approved by City Council, with input from the Evanston Environmental Association and possibly other local organizations.
Our goal is to keep this space, and all open spaces in Evanston, in the public domain. We feel that the IDNR Coastal Management Program fits within that parameter, but no matter what happens it is essential that Lighthouse Landing Park remain forever in the public domain.
More on EvPLA can be found at www.evpla.org.
EvPLA members Linda Damashek, Betty Ester, Geri Garl, Carol and Lou Harms, Barbara Janes, Clare Kelly, Jeanne Lindwall, Sigrid Pilgrim and Mary Rosinski