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Beach Gets Renamed For City Parks Pioneer Who 'Lived And Breathed' The Arts

By  Linze Rice and David Matthews | April 14, 2016 1:29pm 

 Helen Doria was a Chicago Park District pioneer and lover of arts and culture. The beach at 1040 W. Columbia Ave., known as Columbia Beach, is being re-named in her honor.
Helen Doria was a Chicago Park District pioneer and lover of arts and culture. The beach at 1040 W. Columbia Ave., known as Columbia Beach, is being re-named in her honor.
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ROGERS PARK — The Chicago Park District Board agreed to rename Columbia Beach in Rogers Park after Helen Doria, a career advocate for parks and arts in the city who passed away in 2012.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) spoke at Wednesday's meeting and described Doria, who was also a resident of Rogers Park, as "a true leader and a real stalwart in the Rogers Park community."

In November, Moore sent an email to residents asking them to weigh-in on the proposal to change the beach's name, and reported Wednesday the responses were unanimously in favor of dedicating the park to Doria.

Beth Doria, friend and sister-in-law to Helen, said Doria "lived and breathed the Park District every day" and was passionate about her work in the city.

"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.

Avis Lavelle, a member of the park board, said the beach's renaming would be fitting for Doria, who "brought so much energy, and we’re all better for it."

Doria's sister-in-law and Moore also hit home the importance of recognizing womens' accomplishments throughout the city, and giving them due credit "not because she is a woman," but because of her actions.

"One of the challenges we’ve been facing is making sure more and more women are recognized by park naming," Moore said. "This is a woman who is deserving not because she is a woman but because she was a leader in the community."

Beth Doria agreed, adding that she knew Helen would be proud to know her work touched so many, but also that it highlighted the women who have been instrumental in building the city.

"This ... would be a great honor, but more importantly it speaks to the fact the park district recognizes the great women ho built this city," she said before the board Wednesday.

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.

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."

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