Members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board met Thursday night to discuss pickleball courts, beach accessibility and more. Credit: Duncan Agnew

Unlike last month’s Parks and Recreation Board meeting, where nearly 50 residents showed up for a lively discussion about tennis and pickleball courts, there was no one beside the board at the Thursday, Nov. 17 board meeting.

But the board expects a better turnout to spoke when it hosts a December meeting about pickleball and tennis. At that meeting, which is not yet scheduled, the Parks and Recreation Board wants opinions on where it should build potentially permanent, dedicated pickleball courts and where to keep existing tennis courts.

Four areas of tennis courts are already scheduled for resurfacing in the spring of 2023, including James Park, the Robert Crown Community Center, Burnham Shores and Bent Park. The board plans to make recommendations to the Public Works Agency on where and how many new pickleball court locations to build, based on the December discussion, Parks and Recreation Director Audrey Thompson said Thursday.

Board President Robert Bush also said he watched HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” which discussed pickleball, which made him realize sound was a consideration with the courts as well.

“Pickleball makes a much different sound as an activity than tennis,” Bush said. “So before we get into having courts actually restriped, we should see if there are neighborhoods within the proximity to be able to hear it. And if here are, we need some input from those people.”

Beach accessibility

The Board also has to reconsider extending mobility mats to help people in wheelchairs move around the sand to the water. In August, the RoundTable wrote about accessibility for people with disabilities to Evanston beaches. Only one beach in town this summer had a plastic boardwalk or mobility mat that extended all the way into Lake Michigan.

As a result, Thompson said mats at beaches for people with disabilities were “a necessity.” But after research, she said staff realized to extend mobility mats into the lake requires a 1-foot spikes driven into the underwater sand to hold the mat down.

With inclement weather and the unpredictable currents of the lake, those spikes could get loose from the sand and become a “life threatening” hazard, Thompson said. As a result, the mats will stop short of the actual water, but parks and recreation leadership is planning to acquire several all-terrain beach wheelchairs that people can use to reach the water and maneuver around the sand.

“Being able to have access to the lake is so important,” said Evanston resident Nura Aly, at the Lake Street Beach. “Being out in nature is one thing that centers me.” Credit: Richard Cahan

Plus, the city plans to buy additional mats to extend the path outward horizontally across the beach, so people with wheelchairs, strollers or any other mobility needs can more easily access different areas of the beach, according to Thompson.

“Our responsibility is to make sure that people get as far to the water as they can, and then we provide other means to get them to the water, which would mean those beach wheelchairs,” she said. “We do have enough money to buy Mobi-Mats for all of our beaches, but we also have enough money to buy those accessible wheelchairs. We are going to promote those to get people to the water.”

Fifth Ward school and Fleetwood-Jourdain

Bush, Thompson and other members of the Parks and Recreation Board encouraged people to attend next month’s Fifth Ward school campus community meeting at 6 p.m. Dec. 6 at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center.

Architects and consultants for both District 65 and the city will make recommendations for the design of the new Fifth Ward school, and make suggestions for a redesign or renovation of Fleetwood-Jourdain.

The city and the school district have been looking to find the best possible options for the construction of a new school that will also preserve enough green space for kids to use for recess, sports and other activities. District 65 owns the Foster Field space where the new school is to be built, while the city owns Fleetwood-Jourdain.

Right now, Parks and Recreation Board members as well as other city leaders, want to know how many floors the new school will include, what exactly will happen to the community center and how much parking space will be included in the project.

“This is a meeting to really discuss several options, and to have the community have some feedback as to what they would want to see,” Thompson said. “But there has to be some collaboration, or you lose so much green space. You lose trees. And kids really need a place to play.”

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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