Three lakefront futures open
Teri Merens (left) of Wilmette watches Doug Moline of Northfield give his dog Deuce a drink of coffee at the Gilson Park dog beach October 15, 2012. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
WHAT: Three SmithGroupJJR lakefront futures
FOR: Wilmette Park District
WHERE: www.wilmettepark.org/oct8/board-meet, click Lakefront Master Plan.
Updated: April 9, 2013 1:19AM
WILMETTE — Since 2008, Wilmette park commissioners and lakefront park users have pondered how to improve the district’s Gillson and Langdon Parks amenities. They now have three separate proposals to consider, courtesy of consulting group SmithGroupJJR.
Next month, the public will have at least two chances to tell park district officials what they think of the three options before the park board holds a final hearing at its regular Dec. 10 meeting. The start time for that will be moved to 7 p.m. from 7:30.
When she presented the options to commissioners at their Oct. 8 meeting, consulting architect Deb Mitchell said their “mix and match” elements will allow the board to pull what it likes from each of the alternatives to build a final plan.
“There really is no bad answer,” Mitchell assured the board.
Park Board President Jim Brault asked Mitchell to create an online method that the public could easily use to sort through each option and its elements; asit is, “the data to me seems almost overwhelming.”
Most of the report looked at Gillson improvements, although it also included three alternatives for the much smaller Langdon park and beach area to the north of Gillson.
The first alternative for Gillson focuses on improving its overall landscape. Elements include adding oak trees along Michigan Avenue; adding vegetation around the Wallace Bowl and restoring Gillson’s wildflower garden, as well as creating a policy to control the number and type of memorial trees to go into the park.
The first option would expand Lakeview Center. It would replace, but not enlarge Gillson’s beach house and sailing center, and it would leave existing traffic circulation alone, although it would add pedestrian and bike lanes through striping.
Mitchell said the third alternative contains “ambitious” ideas; relocating Gillson’s wildflower garden to Langdon Park; expanding Gillson’s beach house and sailing center, improving Wallace Bowl sound systems, and replacing the current Gillson parking lot furthest from the beach with a one-level parking deck topped with a sodded or otherwise green roof.
One of the largest ideas might be the creation of a second park district jetty, built north of the existing jetty that abuts the north end of the dog beach. The new jetty would be built to allow fishing. It would also help create a third separate beach, which could be used for small watercraft.
The third alternative would also change traffic patterns the most, eliminating access between the parking lots and the rest of Gillson’s roadways.
The second alternative combines aspects of the first and third options, Mitchell said, including separating bicycle and pedestrian lanes from other traffic. It would not create a second jetty, but would upgrade the existing one and provide space for fishing.
All three alternatives include fencing to protect lakefront dune areas. The fences would have regular access points so that people could get to the beach.
Mitchell also emphasized that the options she presented did not highlight “implicit” issues that the district must deal with as it updates and upgrades lakefront facilities – road and stormwater drainage needs, utility and public safety upgrades, Americans With Disabilities Act requirements and the need for more and better signage.
Among the implicit upgrades, for instance, would be the need to install an elevator at Gillson’s Lakeview Center, if the park board chooses to expand the center.
District Director Steve Wilson said Monday that staff still haven’t set meeting dates prior to Dec. 10, nor have they made final decisions what form those public sessions should take. Although Commissioner James Crowley suggested holding one of the sessions at the lakefront, so that attendees could tour potentially affected areas, fall weather probably militates against it, Wilson said.