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Humboldt Park Beach Is Reopening This Summer After Being Closed Last Year

By Paul Biasco | April 19, 2016 1:43pm | Updated on April 19, 2016 2:14pm
 The Humboldt Park beach is set to reopen this summer in a new and improved more natural form with a focus on keeping the water cleaner.
Humboldt Park Beach
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HUMBOLDT PARK — Chicago's only inland beach is coming back this summer.

After months of behind-the-scenes work, the Humboldt Park Beach will open to neighborhood swimmers and sunbathers in July, if all goes as planned, according to the Chicago Park District.

The beach didn't open last year for the first time in more than 40 years, drawing protest from many neighborhood residents.

Officials said they hope to improve on the previous beach, plagued by poor water quality due to its shallow depth and design.

Reporter Paul Biasco talks about plans to reopen Humboldt Park Beach.

In 2014 the tab to operate the man-made beach was $1,401,929 for water, sewage, testing kits and beach staffers.

Officials have not detailed how the new project will be financed.

The beach redevelopment process is "moving along" and is currently out to bid, according to Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner.

The entire budget needs to be within about $1 million, Maxey-Faulkner said.

The revamped beach will look a lot like the old one, according to an architectural drawing of the proposal, but the waterway will be split in two by a new pathway.

Swimming and related activities will remain in the same area. The water to the west of the new path will become a natural lagoon area similar to those found throughout the park with native plantings.

To improve water quality in the swimming area, crews will bore a 10-foot deep cold water hole to reduce the water temperature and install a bubbler to add oxygen and improve water circulation from the bottom of the water, according to planning documents.

To keep the water of the old swimming area clean, the Park District continually refilled it to prevent stagnant water that breeds bacteria.

The Park District was concerned with both water quality and the amount of drinkable water used to fill the beach continually.

The Humboldt Park Beach Committee, the group seeking to bring the beach back, had planned for a June opening, but efforts have been slow.

Juanita Irizarry, president of Friends of the Parks who lives in Humboldt Park, has been pushing the Park District to speed up the process.

"I’m actually here to urge you on behalf of my community ... to urge you to get a Humboldt Park Beach done this summer," Irizarry said during a Park District Board meeting last week. "This time last year my community was looking forward to splashing around in Humboldt Park Beach, which didn’t happen."

Her main concern has been the timeline with the project, she said.

Irizarry said the Park District plans to "fast track" the bidding process, but that left her nervous.

“I don’t really know what fast tracking means, but it did seem that they understood that there were some folks really concerned about this," Irizarry said. "In my experience, I don't believe anything is happening until it really happens."

Last summer's beach closure came without much warning.

Supporters of the beach launched two petition drives and hosted a "beach sit-in" to alert and organize neighbors.

After those protests, the Humboldt Park Advisory Council and Park District announced plans to rebuild the beach as a sustainable, natural pool last June.

The new project plan is historically sensitive to those of Jens Jensen, the architect of the park, according to project planning documents.

The Park District modified Jensen's lagoon to create the swimming beach in 1973.

The inland beach project was the first of its kind in Chicago, and maybe the country, according to a 1973 Tribune article detailing the dig.

Since the beach closed, the former pool has dried out, aside from a mucky portion in the middle, which has collected garbage.

"It looks sad," said 21-year-old Julie Lai, who was strolling through the park Monday afternoon.

Her friend Joe Seidman, 25, who grew up in the neighborhood, said he was never a fan of swimming at the old beach, but it looked "even more gross" in its current state.

"I think it's kind of an eyesore," Seidman said.

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