EDGEWATER — After three decades of pushing for a complete overhaul of the Far North Side lakefront path and creation of a beachside promenade, Edgewater residents will get to vote on the proposal this November.
Morry Matson, of the Edgewater Beachwalk Chicago organization, has long campaigned for a lakefront path to allow better access for residents with disabilities and South Siders wishing to visit the neighborhood's beaches and parks.
After increased efforts to get support for the project in recent months, the group now has the signatures for a nonbinding referendum question for the proposal to appear on November's ballot in 40th and 48th Ward precincts that cover Edgewater, the group says.
Edgewater Beachwalk's plans include extending the existing lakefront bike path that stops at Ardmore Avenue to Devon Avenue — effectively connecting many of the small beaches that populate the Edgewater and Rogers Park lakefronts to the rest of the city.
"Chicago’s black and ADA communities, two of the largest supporters of the proposed project, applauded news of the newly placed referendum as it will create public awareness of heretofore unaddressed local civil rights issues," Matson said.
Matson has said that in the past, one of his biggest barriers to full support for the project, aside from the cost, is that some fear opening up the path to more residents will bring a wave of crime.
"The restrictionist voters in the 48th Ward for the past 30 years have denied Chicago South Side residents access to a three-quarter mile stretch of Edgewater’s lakefront and have vowed to actively campaign against the referendum to ensure that the measure fails," Matson said.
Renderings created by architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, who are also behind the new $35 million stage at Navy Pier's Chicago Shakespeare Theater, show a connected path between Hollywood and Loyola paths.
Funding for the project has not been secured.In May, Ald. Harry Osterman's (48th) office said his priority was diverting any available funds to Chicago Public Schools though he supported Matson's passion for the lakefront idea.
"There's just not significant available funding," for such a large-scale project at the moment, said Jerry Goodman of Osterman's office.
After the Lucas Museum failed, Matson suggested that George Lucas could help fund the beachwalk project with a $60 million investment and leave a legacy in Edgewater instead.
Matson said he planned to hold a public debate in the fall on the project and would continue to campaign in the meantime.