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Chicago Parks, Art Pioneer Could Have Far North Side Beach Named After Her

By Linze Rice | November 24, 2015 5:53am
 A group of residents is advocating for a name change at Columbia Beach Park to honor former resident and longtime activist Helen Doria.
A group of residents is advocating for a name change at Columbia Beach Park to honor former resident and longtime activist Helen Doria.
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ROGERS PARK — A longtime Rogers Park resident and major advocate for parks in Chicago, Helen Doria, could have Columbia Beach Park renamed after her if community residents can agree to the change.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said a group of neighbors, including U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th) and Cook County Clerk David Orr, had proposed the renaming as December will mark three years since Doria's death.

"She was the ultimate people person, drawing energy from her relationships with friends, colleagues and family," Forrest Claypool, then president of the CTA, told the Tribune after her death in 2012. Claypool worked with Doria in the early 1990s through the park district.

Barring an "outcry" of opposition from residents, Moore said he would support the plan before the Chicago Park District Board at next month's meeting.

Doria was a Chicago native who moved to Columbia Avenue in Rogers Park to go to Mundelein College, but stayed in the neighborhood throughout much of her career.

Doria worked in the 49th Ward office and was crucial in the restoration of Berger Park mansion before leaving to work for then-Mayor Harold Washington creating and expanding Chicago's "Sister City" program.

In the '90s, the worked for the park district and from 2004-07 served as the first executive director at Millennium Park after being appointed by former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

In 2008, she branched off to form her own consulting group and became instrumental in developing the 606 (or Bloomington) Trail.

After Mayor Rahm Emanuel won the 2011 election, he appointed Doria to serve on his arts and culture transition committee.

The Illinois Association of Park Districts gives out an award in her honor named the Helen Doria Arts In The Park Award.

Though some streets in the neighborhood have been named after early settlers like Philip McGregor Rogers and Patrick Leonard Touhy, Columbia Avenue was named after Columbia University in New York — the alma mater of early area real estate developer A.W. Wallen.

If renamed for Doria, the beach would join the growing trend of 49th Ward parks and beaches renamed to reflect "women whose accomplishments inspire future generations," Moore wrote in an email to residents.

Doria especially loved the beach and park near where she lived, Moore said.

"It was a place of relaxation and a source of inspiration for her."

Most recently, the beach at Pratt Boulevard was changed to Toby Prinz Beach Park, and Jarvis Avenue beach was renamed as Marion Mahony Griffin Beach Park.

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