HUMBOLDT PARK — Humboldt Park residents won't let their beach go without a fight.
On Sunday, May 31, area residents new and old gathered with the Humboldt Park Advisory Council for a "Beach Blanket Sit-In" to demand that the Chicago Park District open the beach as planned.
A Park District official announced earlier this month that the beach would not reopen because of the nearly $1 million price tag to fill and maintain the man-made park each year.
Local teens said Sunday that they feel like they're losing more than just a swimming hole — they say the beach has become a staple of the neighborhood since Humboldt Park's Puerto Rican community originally lobbied for the beach more than 40 years ago.
Melissa DuPrey, a Humboldt Park resident of 25 years, holds up her sign of choice at the Humboldt Park Beach sit-in May 31. [DNAinfo/Jamie Lynn Ferguson]
"This is where I grew up," Benjamin Barnes, 14, said.
"We've lived in Humboldt Park our whole lives," Johnny Diaz, 16, added. "We can't travel to downtown so we come here. When we don't have anything else to do, this is where we'd go."
Rashaun Howard, 16, said that they'll still come to hang out at the beach but "it won't be as fun."
"Coming to the beach keeps us busy during the summer," Howard said.
Rashaun Howard (l.), Johnny Diaz (center) and Benjamin Barnes attend the Humboldt Park Beach sit-in Sunday, May 31. [DNAinfo/Jamie Lynn Ferguson]
Supporters of the Humboldt Park beach gather May 31 in protest of its closing. [DNAinfo/Jamie Lynn Ferguson]
Melissa DuPrey, an actress and Humboldt Park resident of 25 years, said she was happy to see her community coming together on an issue.
"This is so beautiful to me right now," she said. "This is a really big, heartwarming sight to see that everybody wants this beach."
Tari Troppe showed up with signs and her 5-year-old son to show their support.
"I used to bring my son here so I just wanted to do something to keep it open," she said.
Jennie Meyer, who travels to the beach from Dunning, said this was the closest place she could bring her family for outdoor summer fun.
"It's a nice spot, and when you have a toddler, it's hard to contain them at the big beaches, and it's hard to use public transportation to get down to the lake," she said.
When Humboldt Park Advisory Coucil president Amy Vega first heard that the beach could close, she said "disapointment" summed up her feelings.
Chicago Public Schools teacher Oscar Ortiz said he worries the closing of the beach could lead to increased violence in Humboldt Park this summer as local youth look for other ways to stay busy and cool during the coming hot months.
"The beach provides a safe place within the area that encourages family engagement," Vega said.
Resident Morgan Halstead echoed Vega's disappointment.
"I think many of us are feeling like the neighborhood is getting left behind," she said. "It's one thing if they'd told us at the end of the season that it wouldn't be sustainable next year, but coming to the community two weeks before the beach was supposed to open? Humboldt Park needs this. We need people coming together."
Vega encouraged attendees to join the advisory council at the next Chicago Park District meeting, to be held at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 10, at the Chicago Park District Administration Office, 541 N. Fairbanks Court.
Adelina Meye, 7, writes "Save the Beach" in the sand at the Humboldt Park Beach sit-in Sunday, May 31. [DNAinfo/Jamie Lynn Ferguson]
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