HUMBOLDT PARK — Riot Fest organizers said they plan to donate $30,000 to the Humboldt Park Beach, which is in danger of closing.
The amount isn’t enough to cover the estimated $1 million beach shortfall espoused by the Chicago Park District but it is enough to release a national statement on two issues that have enraged and galvanized Humboldt Park residents in recent weeks: The closing of the beach and the return of Riot Fest to Humboldt Park in 2015.
"As a Humboldt Park resident, I personally understand the importance of the beach to our neighborhood. Aside from the obvious enjoyment of a water resource during the summer months, Chicago’s only inland beach brings together residents from Chicago and beyond," Riot Fest founder Mike Petryshyn said in a statement. "Riot Fest is committing $30,000 to open the beach. We also have assembled some ideas as to how we can help make this happen and do so at a lower cost."
The donation announcement came in an email during a Wednesday meeting of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners where about a dozen residents on both sides of the Riot Fest fight put their thoughts down on record.
The donation was welcomed by some but rejected by others following the meeting.
“Humboldt Park Citizens Against Riot Fest is completely against monies put in by Riot Fest,” group spokesman Charlie Billups said. "They should not be in the business of furthering the division between citizens of Humboldt Park.”
“I think a corporate player like Riot Fest should be completely out of the decision-making,” Billups added.
Like Billups, former Humboldt Park resident Lynda Lopez questioned the timing of the donation.
“It just doesn’t seem genuine,” Lopez said outside of the Park District board meeting.
But, after an intense meeting with Park District officials Tuesday night, 10-year Humboldt Park resident and community leader Morgan Halstead said the donation is welcome if the Humboldt Park beach opens with other city beaches for approximately 89 days starting May 22.
“I think it’s good Riot Fest stepped up to pledge money, but why didn’t the Park District think of that?” Halstead said. “I am not one to argue for privatization … but why was it left to us to save the park?”
Halstead hopes other organizations, both private and nonprofit, follow Riot Fest’s lead, adding that Puerto Rican Festival and Parade officials, the Cubs (which sponsored Humboldt Park’s Little Cubs Field) and backing groups behind The 606 get in on the action as well.
“I think Blackhawks Beach has a nice ring to it,” Halstead said.
The Riot Fest beach donation raises the bar currently taking shape in Humboldt Park as the Humboldt Park Advisory Council and other neighborhood groups have vowed to find a way to keep the beach open.
That's despite a Park District statement calling the beach "a financially unsustainable and environmentally unfriendly practice" as the alleged $1 million tab to keep water running at the park could be better spent on other park utilities, including a water park and a variety of other proposals, according to Park District Director of Planning and Construction Rob Rejman.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: