HUMBOLDT PARK — Chicago's only inland beach will likely not be open for the 2015 summer season, and Humboldt Park residents say the Chicago Park District made the decision with little to no community input.
Around 150 people, many with toddlers in tow, showed up to a special meeting of the Humboldt Park Advisory Council Tuesday night, more than a month after residents started a petition to keep the beach open after years of rumors of its demise.
Last month, a Park District spokesman told DNAinfo all of the city's beaches were "scheduled to open as planned." But that changed Monday night, when Park District Director of Planning and Construction Rob Rejman said there are currently no plans to re-open the Humboldt Park beach, which is now dry.
Rejman said the cost of water maintenance for the beach, just short of $1 million a year, is high. But he could not provide a breakdown of the total costs associated with keeping the beach open.
There are currently no plans to re-open the city's only inland beach this year, according to Park District officials. [DNAinfo/Darryl Holliday]
“It would be wrong to run the beach the way it’s run now,” he said, suggesting that it be replaced with a water park or water play areas. That suggestion elicited hissing from the crowd.
The parks director also noted that water conservation efforts, park reconfiguration and the potential use of stormwater were also on the drawing board. He said the way the water has been added to the man-made lagoon in the past is unsustainable, and wastes water which ends up in sewers.
Neighbors, however, were not impressed. They said they were given no warning that their beach could close.
“I’m formally disappointed and disgusted at the way this decision has been given to us," said Humboldt Park Advisory Council President Amy Vega, noting that while the beach has been in danger for at least two years, park district officials told them nothing until Monday — when it seemed the decision had already been made.
This is “unacceptable, [it's] lousy and it’s more garbage than has ever been left in the park,” she said.
Vega received a standing ovation from community members when she let Rejman and other park district officials know where she stood.
Humboldt Park Advisory Council President Amy Vega got a standing ovation when she scolded the Park District for dropping the ball on the Humboldt Park beach. [DNAinfo/Darryl Holliday]
“This [beach] was a dream that we realized and now you’re telling us that we can’t have it,” resident Ada Nivia Lopez told Rejman. “Maybe the community has changed but the needs are still the same. You need to use all your know-how to figure out how to keep it open.”
Another resident asked Rejman how the city could find money for Maggie Daley Park, a 24-hour fountain in Grant Park and the nearby 606 trail but not for Humboldt Park — a 219-acre green space that saw nearly $50,000 in budget cuts from 2013 to 2014 and could expect to see further reductions this year as a $28 million freeze on park projects takes hold citywide.
“Humboldt Park has a real problem — while other parks around us have all received larger budgets, ours has been cut,” said Morgan Halstead, a 10-year Humboldt resident who has spearheaded efforts to draw community attention to the underfunded beach.
“I can’t tell you how important this beach is to my family,” she added. “It’s essential. If it’s an issue of money, fine, let’s talk about fundraising. Everyone in this room would contribute what they can right now. If it’s an issue of conservation, fine, let’s talk about a mechanism to make that happen … we need you to see how important this beach is to our families.”
A second meeting to discuss the future of the beach will be scheduled in the coming weeks, according to Rejman. Beach season in Chicago lasts approximately 89-days and traditionally begins on Memorial Day weekend — a date quickly approaching on May 22 this year.
(l.) Oscar Isleno and other Humboldt Park kids on the beach in summer 2013. [DNAinfo/Mark Konkol]
The beach, as of May 13. [DNAinfo/Mark Konkol]
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