Wilmette Park Board likes passive Elmwood Avenue property use
WHERE: Elmwood right of way
WHAT: Cost maintenance estimates
HOW MUCH: $1,400-30,800 a year
Updated: April 22, 2013 10:14AM
WILMETTE — Wilmette Park District commissioners who reviewed cost-management options for the village’s Elmwood Avenue property almost unanimously agreed that the property should become a tiny nature preserve, and not a swimming beach.
That’s especially important if the park district becomes Elmwood’s manager, as village officials have more than hinted they would like to happen.
“I don’t think the park district or the community needs to pay for another swimming beach, and most importantly we don’t need one,” Commissioner Darrell Graham said at the board’s March 11 meeting.
Commissioners John Olvany, Gary Benz, Mike Murdock and Shelley Shelly agreed with keeping Elmwood a passive use.
They acknowledged the job any Elmwood administration would have to turn would-be swimmers away from what is currently the only free lakefront access in Wilmette. They compared it to the job Gillson Beach staff had last summer, teaching visitors not to swim off the south beach area.
Graham also backed park district management of the area now being called the Elmwood Dunes by the community activists who first brought the right of way to public attention.
In January, the Village Board’s municipal services committee asked park staff and commissioners to use their experience in running Gillson and Langdon beaches to estimate Elmwood costs.
Last week Recreation Superintendent Kathy Bingham said annual maintenance of the 80-foot wide property that runs from the end of Elmwood Avenue down to Lake Michigan between two lakefront homes could be just over $1,400. That assumes only maintenance and cleanup.
Most commissioners preferred what they thought was a more realistic option, at least for the initial stages of public use; one that also paid for two park employees to be onsite daily during the summer, increasing annual costs to about $18,300.
They agreed staffing might be dialed back eventually, as Elmwood users realize that swimming wasn’t allowed there.
Only board President Jim Brault asked whether that robbed beach users of the right to go in the water. Commissioner James Crowley wasn’t at the meeting.
Turning Elmwood into a swimming beach could cost almost $31,000 with lifeguard staffing. Even charging user fees, as is the case at the district’s other beaches, would generate less than $4,700 in revenue according to Bingham’s report.
That report now goes to the village engineering department staff and to trustees. In the meantime, Brault said, the park board will discuss Elmwood again to take the pulse of residents about possibly managing it on the village’s behalf.