Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Beach Transformation Creates Educational, Recreational Oasis

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Beach Transformation Creates Educational, Recreational Oasis

Article excerpt

What was once an underutilized, rock strewn beach on the shores of Lake Michigan in Highland Park, Illinois, has been reborn as a unique multifunctional, educational and recreational oasis. Through the efforts of the Park District of Highland Park (PDHP), Rosewood Beach now offers area students a lakeside classroom for the exploration and study of Lake Michigan's coastal zone. Rosewood Beach is also a recreational haven, providing families in the surrounding community with a place to enjoy a variety of activities, including early morning yoga classes, deep-water swimming programs, beach volleyball, or just to relax in a pristine beach environment.

The restoration of Rosewood Beach, a $12 million project, is the result of a comprehensive plan where community involvement played a key role in the ultimate outcome. It was vitally important to PDHP to continue a long-held practice of seeking ongoing conversations and input from the community for the project concept and design. A resident volunteer Rosewood Task Force was recruited and met regularly for more than a year to develop the extraordinary design plan for Rosewood. A grassroots citizen group, Friends of Rosewood, was also spontaneously formed to

support the project and help move it along its path to approval.

"It's phenomenal," says Michelle Holleman, a 20-year Highland Park resident and lead organizer of Friends of Rosewood Beach. "This is one of those few projects that truly delivers on the plan. What we saw on paper was fully realized and is better than anything we could have imagined."

Execution of the Rosewood Beach project was a collaborative effort between PDHP and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as part of the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration (GLFER) program. GLFER authorizes federal funding for the US ACE to cooperate with other federal, state and local agencies and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to implement projects that support the restoration of the fishery, ecosystem and beneficial uses of the Great Lakes.

A Beach with Purpose

According to Liza McElroy, PDHP executive director, the focal points of the beach are three distinct coves that enable a variety of programming options to take place simultaneously. Environmentally friendly and architecturally sensitive facilities are nestled against the wooded bluffs and linked by a continuous 1,500-foot boardwalk made of ipe, a durable South American hardwood.

Rosewood Beach also serves as a lakeside living classroom for PDHP's environmental education summer camps. And this fall, elementary and secondary school field trips, high school environmental science field trips, and the district's nature-based classes for preschool children will begin at the new beachfront Interpretive Center --all part of an overarching educational initiative to build an informed, inspired and engaged community that recognizes the need to protect Lake Michigan's coastal zone. …

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