HUMBOLDT PARK — Despite persistent push-back from neighborhood residents who want their inland beach open, the Humboldt Park beach will not open this year. On Wednesday, Chicago Park District officials said it’s time to put funds allotted for the beach into alternatives.
Protesters held "Save the Beach" signs at the park district's administrative headquarters at 541 N. Fairbanks Court Wednesday as the members of the community-driven effort to save the beach reiterated its main goal at the district's monthly board meeting.
But supporters were given the same answer: the city isn't fronting the bill this summer.
Park district records show a tab to fill the man-made beach in 2014 cost a total of $1,401,929, according to a Freedom of Information Act request answered shortly before Wednesday’s board meeting. Costs include water and sewage charges, 130 water testing kits and 10 allotted beach staffers.
And this year’s budget is projected to exceed that amount by more than $250,000, according to those same records, largely due to increases in both water and sewage fees that went into effect on January 1.
The beach closure came suddenly and with little notice or local input more than three months later, according to Humboldt Park Advisory Council president Amy Vega, who spoke in favor of reopening the beach Wednesday.
Humboldt Park residents have maintained that the city’s only remaining inland beach is vital to low-income and working-class families on the Northwest Side — in keeping with its original purpose and construction more than 40 years ago.
Marcello Tanon, 18, prepared a speech for Wednesday's board meeting but wasn't able to deliver it to city officials.
“I invite the board to give our community one last chance to prove that Humboldt Park is a sanctuary for families around the area," he wrote in his unread statement. "As a representative of my community I invite you to be part of those fighting for keeping the positive things that flow in a moment that we need it the most."
The 210-acre park already features a swimming pool. Park district officials said they've kept that in mind while pushing for a sustainable water feature at the park — one possibly connected to the existing pool and waterslide.
But at a May 13 meeting, supporters of the beach, many the parents of young children, made it clear that the Humboldt Park swimming pool is currently built at a 4- to 10-foot depth — a minimum depth too high for kids and non-swimmers, unlike the shallow Humboldt Park beach, which has long been known as a refuge for small children and locals looking for relief from the heat.
“We want it to continue being a refuge for families so we urge the park district to open it this summer," said Grassroots Illinois Action Lynda Lopez. "Not only that, we urge the park district to come up with a sustainability plan to make sure we are not here again next year.”
But on Wednesday, the hottest day of the year so far, park district officials stayed their course — noting that a replacement water park could possibly be complete by next summer if work starts this fall.
“The goal is to use the money allocated for the beach next year to build a sustainable water feature for 40 more years,” said Park District Division of Planning and Development director Rob Rejman,
A follow up meeting on the future of the beach is set for Tuesday, June 16.
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