Nelo and Maria Nightingale spent Sunday, July 25, at Evanston’s Clark Street Beach, arriving early on the already warm day and finding one of the free parking spots that bracket the area.

Maria Nightingale, who lives in Chicago, did the driving, not an outstanding fact in itself. But after tonight, July 26, it might be a significant detail, with Evanston City Council members considering approving a pilot program that would charge non-residents for parking along the lakefront.

If Council members go that way, it would end free parking in one of the few communities to offer it along the Lake Michigan lakefront.

Nelo Martingale opposes the move, even though as an Evanston resident he would be exempt from paying parking fees under the ordinance that allows free parking for Evanston residents who have paid their wheel tax.

He still does not support the move, though, and would be irritated if Maria, who resides in Chicago, were to receive a ticket.

“I would be upset,” he said. “That’s why most people come here. Most people are not even from Evanston. They come, they park, they have a good time and they enjoy Evanston.  Why are they trying to scare the people out of Evanston?”

“We need more [people] to come,” he argued.

“That’s why they’re leaving Chicago, for the same reason. There are no free beach[es], no parking for anyone. Why would they want to stay?”

Bill Kliot, a resident of south Evanston, visited the lakefront on July 23, participating in a cookout. He and a companion then found a picnic table to set up a game of Scrabble.

“To charge people who are coming in a reasonable fee to use our things, I’m probably not against it,” he said. “The general overall thing is I’m not against assessing a reasonable fee for use of the lakefront, because I also think our neighbors as we go north do.

“Minds greater than ours need to raise revenue and stuff like that,” Kliot continued, “so I guess if that helps prevent the next one-tenth-of-one-percent increase on my taxes,” he would support the move.

Kai Huang and Trudy Chang (RoundTable photo)

Kai Huang and Trudy Chang, a couple in their 30s from the Naperville area, drive to Evanston twice a month. They make a day of it, stopping at their favorite restaurant downtown, Joy Yee Noodle at 533 Davis St., and driving up to the lakefront afterward, enjoying a walk along the beach.

When they stop at the restaurant, they pay for parking at a meter, Chang pointed out.

“So technically we shouldn’t be paying [at the lakefront],” said Huang. “We’re already paying money at the restaurant.”

Gary Miller, who sails out of the Northwestern Sailing Center, also travels a long way, leaving Wheaton to go to Evanston’s lakefront.

“Whenever I have the opportunity, whenever I can, I make the drive, make an afternoon of it, and enjoy the lakefront.”

If the City were to start charging, “I don’t like it, but then again, I’m not a resident,” he said.

Northwestern does have a parking lot, for which the university charges, and an outside lot, which is free after 4 p.m., he said.

So if the ordinance goes into effect, he said, it’s either pay or come after 4 p.m. He didn’t know what the cost of a ticket would be if he was in violation at the Northwestern lot.

“I don’t want to find out,” he added.

Melanie, who lives in Chicago and has a friend from Cicero, parked farther south, in a lot by Patriot Park, where parking is currently free, hopping over to the beach there.

“The reason why I come is because it’s a lot more calm here than [in Chicago],” she said. 

When asked if she would continue coming to the Evanston lakefront if a parking fee were to be put into effect, she responded, “Well, I already have to pay for the [access] to go to the beach, so that’s going to add another 20, 30 bucks, so no, I probably won’t even come.”

The $20–$30 cost would only come if she received a ticket, she was told. “Exactly,” she said.

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.

3 replies on “Parking fee might dampen attraction of Evanston beaches for some”

  1. I think that when the City of Evanston agreed to demands for making the beaches free (some days), it should have specified that “free” days are for Evanston residents only. It would be fairly simple to create a two-tiered system of beach token for residents. One color for every day access, another for restricted “free” day access. Proof of residency should be required for both, and non-residents who want to buy a season pass can pay a nice hefty fee for the privilege. I moved home to Evanston for its beautiful lakefront and beaches. I pay the high taxes to live here, knowing full well I could live more inexpensively in, say, Skokie or Morton Grove. I do NOT support letting anyone and everyone use the Evanston beaches. Imagine my irritation with the family that passed their (adorable) puppy over the fence at South Boulevard beach last week to sneak it past the lifeguards—all of whom were either clueless or deliberately ignored it—when just last summer I paid a $135 fine for having my dog on the empty beach at 7:30 a.m. Implementing a parking fee and the adjacent infrastructure is just an unnecessary complication, IMHO. Leave the parking alone and the beaches to the people who already pay the big bucks to live here.

  2. To show justice to black population, Evanston first made free entry in beaches for evanstin residents. Now finding other ways to cover that loss. I am Skokie resident, sr citizen, come to Dawes park in weekends. I suggest keep free parking for people working in Evanston. It’s not like Evanston residents were not finding parking because of non residents. Please don’t do this. Thanks.

  3. Lots of bad information here; very sad that the Roundtable staff doesn’t bother to provide accurate information. In many NU lots, parking is free all day on Saturday and Sunday and after 4:00 p.m. on weekdays. And, if the residents of Chicago or other communities wish to visit the beach, perhaps they should visit the beaches in their own cities…and pay the appropriate fees -if any. Visitors to the beaches in Evanston spend precious few dollars supporting Evanston businesses. As a resident of Evanston who, like all Evanstonians, directly or indirectly pays, higher real property taxes than almost every other lake front community, I can’t figure out why I should be subsidizing them for the use of this scarce resource.

Comments are closed.