Dune grass burned. The Fire Department is still investigating the cause. Photo courtesy of the City of Evanston

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… that last Saturday was the kickoff for Women Out Walking – a three-month program that encourages women of all ages to walk in groups or singly – kind of like a 12-stepping program.

… that, perhaps signaling the end of winter, a couple of girls were temporarily stranded on an ice floe in mid-March when it broke away from the ice shelf they were walking on; one fell into the lake but managed to climb back onto the floe. Fire Department personnel (17 of them) stretched out a ladder for the girls to climb back to shore – without injury, according to the City. Although the ice shelves are probably gone now or will be soon, folks should stay away from them. As noted above, they are not sturdy and not always strong.
Speaking of fire department rescues at Lighthouse Beach, the EFD was back in the area again on March 16 to douse a fire on the dune grass. The Fire Department reported finding “several hundred feet of grass on fire behind the houses on Milburn Park. … The Fire Prevention Bureau is currently investigating the cause of the fire, but an initial report indicates that someone may have released a sky lantern in the area. The dunes serve as a habitat for some of Evanston’s wildlife. An estimate to repair damage to the dunes is not currently available. No injuries were reported.”

… that, perhaps a harbinger of summer is that registration is open for the annual Ricky Byrdsong Race Against Hate, sponsored by the YWCA Evanston/North Shore. There will be 5K and 10K runs, a walk, and a mile fun run for youth. The fun begins at 7:30 a.m. on June 21. Even the non-runners can enjoy refreshments, music and the chance to celebrate something positive that came out of the tragedy 16 years ago. Online registration is open now at www.ywca.org/RAH2015.

… that the 68,000-square-foot sports dome coming soon to 2454 Oakton will be about 60 feet high and have 76 off-street parking spaces, according to information presented at a recent Ninth Ward meeting. The space will be used primarily for practicing and skills-building, not for spectator sports. Readers may remember that City Council in its wisdom shot down a group of coaches, parents and advocates of youth sports when they proposed something similar for the former recycling center, just a few hundred yards west of this. That property is obsolescing now, a storehouse for some City equipment and hundreds of unused garbage carts.

… that Whole Foods is hoping to install larger-than-permitted wall signs on the north and the south of its building at 2748 Green Bay Road. City code allows 15.5 feet for the height. The company also requests permission to install a “freestanding monument sign along Green Bay Road with a setback closer to the east property line than the allowable 1:1 ratio of height to setback,” according to the City. Some neighbors, some of whom fought Office Max/Office Depot on its sign just south of the Whole Foods Green Bay market, are not happy about this set of signs, TG hears.

… that from the first of June to mid-July the CTA will run a pilot program on the Purple Line Express. A train would leave Davis for the loop at 8:07 p.m. and a train would leave the Washington/Wells stop at 9:02 p.m., bound for Davis. If at least 468 people ride each of the trains, the CTA could continue the service.

… that while crews are out filling potholes, the City invites folks to call Don Cornelius, 3-1-1 or 847-448-4311, about streets that are in need of greater repair than simple patching.

… that a traffic light is coming to the east, that is, Hartrey, entrance of the Howard-Hartrey shopping plaza. Now if the owner of the plaza would just install some stop signs…

… that, from June 16 to Sept. 1, Nicor Gas will replace some of its mains and install new services. To do this, Nicor crews must schedule sewer inspections, locate utility cables and decide on locations for the new meters. Here are the locations identified for the new meters: 424-44 Barton, 517-721 Custer, 420-48 Elmwood, 620-1217 Madison, 1030-1220 Monroe, 800-910 Oakton, 701-908 Reba, 501-806 Ridge, 631-32 Sherman, 611 South, and 1108-1221 Washington. Dan Kellogg is the project coordinator for Nicor; his contact number is 630-816-5645.

… that NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said on March 5 that this year’s El Niño has formed. Deanna Conners wrote in March 16’s EarthSky.org, “While El Niño events typically trigger changes in the weather across the globe, the current El Niño event is weak and is therefore not expected to have substantial and widespread impacts on global weather in the near future. Unfortunately, this means that the drought-stricken western United States will likely not receive enough rain to end the current drought cycle. At the same time, NOAA said ‘ … certain impacts often associated with El Niño may appear in some locations during the Northern Hemisphere spring 2015.’ Those impacts could include a cooler, wetter spring for some. The presence of an El Niño may also mean fewer hurricanes after hurricane season begins again June 1.”

From our readers:
TG: I’ve noticed these blue plastic things all over the streets of Evanston recently and wondered where they’re all coming from. Slowly it has occurred to me that they are falling off the city’s snow removal equipment……I see them on streets as well as sidewalks. Is there a more sane way of cleaning our streets that wouldn’t involve shredding plastic everywhere?
Thanks for any info you can provide.
­– Kathi Lieb

From TG: Thank you for the letter and the photo, Ms. Lieb. Once you mentioned them and sent the photo, TG began to notice them in many places, particularly around corners. The ones TG has seen look like they are recent castoffs, not recently uncovered detritus from the winter’s efforts, so they must be falling off now. TG sent your photo and query to the City’s Public Works department but has had no response yet.

TG: When I park at one of the City’s lots, I now have to get out of my car and go to a pay station to pay. One of the bits of information I need is the zone number of the City lot. That number only seems to appear on a small sticker next to the pay station.
 I now have a smartphone with the City’s parking app on it. During the winter, it was warmer for me to stay in my car and use the app to pay for parking instead of standing out at the pay station (which sometimes was only available in the
wrong direction from where I wanted to go anyway).
When I use the app, it asks for the parking space number (right in front of me on a sign) and the zone number. But to get the zone number, I have to get out of my warm car and walk over to the pay station and then input the zone while my fingers freeze. (Poor me).
Why doesn’t the City buy some more stickers and place them on various signs around the lots (like on the signs pointing towards the pay stations). I can understand why it might be expensive to put the zone sticker on each space sign. But a few more (and maybe larger stickers) would make it easier to locate the zone and pay from my car (or at least to pay at a point closer to my car, regardless of where the pay station is located)
– M. Rosenbaum

From TG: This seems like a very clear idea and one that could help untangle some of the snarls associated with the paystation form of collection. The RoundTable has forwarded your letter/suggestion to City officials. Stay tuned.

The Traffic Guy thinks …
… that City Council’s letter to the Governor protesting that his budget proposals will cost Evanston about $4 million, possibly forcing an increase in taxes, gave him a way out by telling him how the City will deal with the shortfall. Speaking of City Council, and thinking of the asphalty Arboretum trail travesty, TG (and possibly others) wish that Council would see that sometimes what seems to be the cheapest alternative seldom proves to be the least costly.

… that most everyone should get a kick out of today’s April Fool stories. In TG’s opinion, the RT’s signs and notes that these are April Fool stories is a bit of overkill, but folks at the RT are continually surprised at the number of calls and emails received – as well as comments in casual conversation – indicating that they are taken as fact. At any rate, the biggest April Fool could be resumption of the non-winter parking times for street-sweeping. That starts on April 1. Read the signs and don’t get caught.

… that folks can turn off their lights at 8:30 p.m. for an hour on March 28 in observance of Earth Hour.

.. that everyone who can, should vote in the April 7 election.