The City reports that, even with three free beach days per week, people are buying beach tokens. (RoundTable photo)

Evanston beach attendants are following the honor system in admitting people to the beach, since the City Council declared three free days for residents, the City’s Parks & Recreation Director told a Seventh Ward audience June 24.

Council Members approved a plan May 24 creating free beach days for residents on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays for the the 2021 season.

Previously, residents as well as non-residents were required to present beach tokens in most cases to gain admission to the City’s beaches.

The Council action came on a Monday “and we were opening up that coming Saturday,” said Lawrence Hemingway, the City’s Parks and Recreation Director, who was asked to give a report at the Seventh Ward meeting.

“And so it was really tough operationally trying to think about the impact, or ‘How do we prepare ourselves to manage that [the no-beach-token system]?’” he said, adding, “I’m not the person standing at the gate, or my assistant director or managers aren’t standing at the gate. It’s 16- and 17-year-old kids with their first job and their first experience as gate attendant.

“So the direction and ultimate decision I made was to just tell the kids all you need to do is ask folks are they Evanston residents? We did not – we very intentionally chose not to get into the ID [confirming their residency status] and put those young people in that very tough situation,” he said.

“So as far as free access goes on those three days, our gate attendants are just asking individuals, ‘Are you an Evanston resident?’ And it’s on the honor system.”

Next year will likely be different, he said. “We’ll have a way that you can come pick up your verification before you enter the beach next season,” he said.

At the time of the City Council’s decision, Mr. Hemingway had raised concern about loss of revenue for the City because of the sale of fewer beach tokens.

Beach token sales are a major revenue generator for the City, supporting other programs. The department had budgeted $1 million in revenue coming into the City through beach token sales and daily passes.

At the June 24 meeting, Mr. Hemingway said, “I am happy to report Saturday, Sunday and Monday is not what dictates people going to the beach most days. It’s 85 degree weather.

“And with that being said, it has turned out with the type of weather we’ve had, we are still selling tokens – which is phenomenal, and which is great for me because one of my major concerns was the loss of revenue for our department.

“We’re still selling tokens, because when it’s hot on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday,” he said, “people want to go to the beach. And so we’re doing OK with our revenue projections at this point.”

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

One reply on “Honor System in Play on City’s Free Beach Days”

  1. “Don’t want to put young people into that very tough situation of asking for ID?” You’re kidding, right? ID should be required. It was in other Northshore beaches years ago! The city is opening itself up to A LOT of problems by not requiring it.

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