WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMITTEE MEETING
Date: November 21, 2011
Place: Village Training Room
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Commissioners: Murdock; Crowley; Graham; Benz; Brault; Shelly
Staff: Lambrecht; Bingham; Bowen; Specht; Groves; Wilson; Eppelheimer
Visitors: See attached sheet
Topics for Discussion:
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Approval of Minutes
3) Communications and Correspondence
4) Recognition of Visitors
a) Justin Dunn – Eagle Scout
b) Sailing Restrictions
5) Manager’s Reports
6) 2011 Summer Camp Report
7) 2011 Lakefront Report
8) Old Business
a) Paddle Tennis
9) New Business
1) The Committee reviewed the minutes of October 21, 2011 and they were approved by general consent.
2) Under Recognition of Visitors, Chairman Murdock recognized Justin Dunn, an Eagle Scout candidate who is proposing building and installing a scoreboard with electronic components at the Hibbard South field. After some discussion, the Committee unanimously approved the proposal.
The Chairman asked that Superintendent Bingham provide an overview of the staff recommendations regarding sailing beach operations on days when the “red” flag is posted. Ms. Bingham reported there were a couple of incidents in 2011 when the red flag was up but the sailors were out sailing. In those weather conditions, the Safety Boat is not in the water. Despite that, in a couple of cases, staff put themselves at risk to help people in the water. Holly Specht added that staff had spoken to other lakefront operations and only one – Evanston – operates a “rescue boat”. She went on to say that no other beach that she talked to restricts water access in rough weather. She stated that on those days, staff would be reduced to just the sailing supervisor. Ms. Bingham stated that staff’s recommendation is that there be no change in the operation regarding
lake access when the red flag is up. The Park District will have a boat on the water next year that will be there to assist in lessons and rentals. If that boat is out, then it will be available to assist other sailors on normal weather days. The Coast Guard would act as “first responders” in case of rough weather. Ms. Specht added that the goal is to not put staff in harm’s way although their first instinct is to assist people. Ms. Bingham added that they are challenged to do what is right. Commissioner Graham asked if that meant staff would not go out on “red” flag days. Ms. Bingham responded that is correct. Chairman Murdock asked for comments from those in attendance.
Dave Raith stated that not all sailors are qualified to be out on red flag days. The problem lies with those who think they are.
Bill Passich stated that the sailors are the ones who should determine if they should go out on rough weather days, not the Park District. A lot of people arrange to have backup and let others know they are going out.
John Fish stated that they do not want any new restrictions and they understand the Park District’s position of not wanting to put staff at risk.
Hilary Marshall stated that in Glencoe they fly a “black” flag and on those days, staff is forbidden to go into the water. The sailors make their own decision on whether to sail and staff waits and watches from the beach.
Rick Dean asked what would happen if the flag goes up in the middle of the day. Also what if the staff is all sent home except for the supervisor and then what happens if the weather improves. Ms. Specht responded that staff is scheduled to start at different times all day so that later shifts would still be coming in. The decision to close is based on a number of issues such as small craft warnings, wave height, rip currents and wind speed/direction. The decision to close is made by the Lakefront Manager, Assistant Manager and Sailing Supervisor. The Coast Guard boat at Wilmette is small and is unable to get out in rough weather.
Allan Golden stated that most sailors tell someone when they are going out. The Park District should not restrict access but should set policy that staff should not go into the water on “red flag” days. He also believes that staff should not be sent home since some staff needs to be on hand to help bring boats in and move them to their spaces. That is part of the service that the sailors expect.
Ronnie Crystal submitted a petition asking that the regulations not be changed. He went on to say that he understands the concern for staff and that it is important to make sure sailors understand they are sailing at their own risk on rough weather days.
Norm Hanson asked to keep the existing policy and not restrict access. The Park District should provide an educational component for sailors on how to survive and what equipment should be taken with them. The first lesson they should know is “self-rescue”.
Commissioner Murdock asked if there was concern that the Park District doesn’t have any liability if the sailors are renting storage space from the Park District. Commissioner Graham stated that he understands that sailors want to be challenged. If the current policy is retained then new rules need to be put in place by staff to keep personnel out of the water on the rough water days. Commissioner Murdock asked if there should be a fee charged for rescues made by the Park District.
Hilary Marshall added that Glencoe does keep staff on the beach during rough weather days to watch and assist sailors on the beach.
Doug Moline stated that the Park District is trying to make it sound like it has rescue boat service when in fact there was no boat in service after Labor Day. The other thing is that accidents don’t just happen is bad weather. They can happen in any weather such as when the catamaran got run over by a power boat a few years ago.
Ken Sohn stated that there are people who don’t know how to handle themselves in rough water. Experienced sailors know what equipment is needed and how to recover when a boat flips.
Superintendent Bingham asked if there was a boat available after Labor Day. Ms. Specht replied that staff did use a jet ski after Labor Day.
David Raith asked why staff would be sent home when the sailors that are out would still need help with their boats. That is part of the service they expect as part of their annual fees or is it just a money-saving strategy.
Superintendent Bingham responded that common sense would rule. If staff is needed, they would be kept. The problem as stated before is that the staff is motivated to save lives and that can put them in danger. There were staff members injured this year trying to help on bad weather days. Management staff understands that better training for staff will have to take place next season to prevent those types of accidents.
A sailor stated that he likes what is happening at the sailing beach in regards to day-to-day operations. He added that he went out on a rough day and capsized but was prepared because other people on the boat started to drift away. He had a throw rope and good life jackets and found it to be a learning experience. He asked if there could be classes offered on boat safety and rough water sailing and if there were printed materials available.
Alan Golden stated there are other safety issues too such as people not paying attention when catamarans are coming in at high speed. Staff needs to be on hand to keep people away from the water’s edge and he objects to them being sent home.
Aaron Shiff agrees with Glencoe’s approach. His problem is that there are times when the red flag is flying and the swimming beach remains open. He also stated that the Park District should provide a rescue service because it is included in the contract the sailors sign. He asked what will happen when the swimming beach is open and a boat goes into the swimming beach if no staff is present to stop it. He does not see any staff available to help move the boats.
Ken Sohn added that there needs to be some direction when people are walking the water’s edge, such as from Langdon, to beware of the boats coming in. That could be as simple as a staff member waving people away from the water.
Superintendent Bingham responded that legally staff cannot stop people from walking the shoreline but staff could do a better job of moving them away from the water’s edge so they don’t get hit by boats.
Aaron Shiff added that staff has done a better job of moving people along who are not sailors and who just walk in and set up camp.
Commissioner Murdock asked what PDRMA’s position is in regard to rescue service. Ms. Specht replied staff was told the Park District should not operate a “rescue service” but there can be a service to assist sailors. The plan is to offer that service when the Park District has a powered watercraft on the water for lessons and to assist the rental boats. Superintendent Bingham added that staff will review the contract and make sure there is clarification regarding any reference to “rescue” services.
Commissioner Brault stated that while he understands the sailors wish to be out in rough water and he is a sailor, as an elected official he is compelled to restrict access from a safety standpoint. Commissioner Graham added that the same type of judgment applies to private pilots who have to decide what they are comfortable with. Maybe there needs to be some extra authorization if a person under 18 wants to go out in rough weather. Commissioner Brault replied that there could be the same problems with an unskilled adult.
Lee Marshall stated that with more restrictions the sailors would be expected to accept more liability.
Anna Lynn Christoff added that everyone understands the red flag. The problem is with staff trying to determine if someone is qualified and what makes a staff member qualified to make that determination. Also, what would happen if you make the wrong determination and someone is seriously injured.
Commissioner Murdock asked that staff read their list of recommendations for 2012. Superintendent Bingham listed the following:
a) Regardless of conditions, we will not place any restrictions on sailors who are leasing space on the Wilmette Park District beach from sailing.
b) When conditions are such that we cannot rent boats, teach lessons or otherwise conduct business on the sailing beach, we will send staff home leaving only a supervisor in place in case conditions change.
c) We will cease to call our boater assistance a rescue operation and reserve our aquatics boat for lessons, camp and rental fleet assistance. The aquatics boat may be used for minor assistance if available.
d) The U.S. Coast Guard will be the first responder should a boater offshore be in distress which is in line with how other lakefront sailing beaches operate.
Commissioner Murdock asked that staff review the staffing policy and come back with recommendations in January. Commissioner Crowley stated that he believes staff can make the determination on how to manage the sailing beach and that they have listened to what the sailors have said and they should be left to make that determination. After further discussion the Committee voted 3 – 0 in favor of accepting staff’s recommendations except for “recommendation b” and that staff would be making the determination about staffing after hearing the sailors’ comments.
3) Under Manager’s Reports, Jeff Groves reported that the recent Daddy/Daughter Dance at Lakeview Center was a sell-out and very successful. Staff is already working on scheduling another event for February 10 at the Wilmette Golf Club so that a larger group can be accommodated. Breakfast with Santa will be held December 10 at the Golf Course and pancakes will be served which is a change from past years when it was called Pizza with Santa. Saturday Basketball practice is underway. The first competition will be the holiday tournament followed by the start of the season in January. Registration is about 40 down from previous years. Sunday Basketball registration is up 30 registrants from last year. In Performing Arts, the North Shore Theatre is currently presenting Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and the last weekend will be December 3 and 4. The Art Department is busy preparing for Holiday classes. Gymnastics Supervisor Jim Scully will be retiring at the end of the year after 35 years. There will be a retirement lunch for him December 5 from 11 am to 1 pm at the Community Recreation Center.
Holly Specht reported that she had had several conversations will sailors regarding sailing restrictions in rough weather. Sailing closed on October 13 and then there was a large storm a week later which buried 50 catamarans. Lakefront staff, in conjunction with Park staff, dug out the boats and moved them to a safe area. Park staff then immediately set up multiple lines of snow fence to better trap the sand. The new fence has been completed along Michigan Avenue west of the Sailing Beach and matches the fence at the Water Plant. Rentals at Lakeview Center are down from last November and the December rentals are currently the same as last year. Ms. Specht has been working with Katy Bradford, lifeguard supervisor, on developing a Junior Lifeguard program for the 2012 season.
4) Superintendent Bingham presented the 2011 Summary Camp Report. The report is based on detailed submissions by the camp directors. Commissioner Murdock asked if staff knew what schools would be available in 2012. Jeff Groves responded that there will be more roof work at Highcrest that may interfere with the area used by camps for outdoor activities. Wiggleworms will be moving to Central School which will be a better fit for their program. Commissioner Murdock also asked about the future of the bus program. Staff reported that District 37 will be leasing busses and that their agreement does not allow use by other groups. District 39 will be outsourcing their bus service but have said they will keep busses for us as long as they will run. Once that option has ended, staff will need to contract out to provide some of the transportation. The Park District would retain their two-bus fleet to provide the year-round services for our programs.
5) Superintendent Bingham presented the 2011 Lakefront Operations Report. The bulk of the report is made up of statistics with some commentary and recommendations by the Lakefront staff. Commissioner Crowley asked why people were sent home for half days. Ms. Bingham replied that the closings are based on the water test results. They could be closed in the morning and reopened in the afternoon depending on the second set of test results. Commissioner Graham stated that he was impressed with how the lessons and Aquatics Camp were marketed this year and the net results. He asked that staff review what was done and to see if there were more opportunities to increase participation. He also asked if staff had considered adding more board boat racks. Ms. Specht replied that staff is considering adding storage for paddle boards near the windsurfer racks. They are also looking at adding more kayak spaces. Staff also discussed the dilemma they are facing with boats that have been abandoned and have discussed the issue with the Park District’s attorney who said that Illinois law makes it difficult to dispose of abandoned property. Staff was directed to contact the owners and ask them to sign over the ownership to the Park District so that they can be removed. The attorneys are currently developing a new ordinance which could be adopted that would hopefully resolve the issue in the future. Commissioner Murdock asked that the discussion about food on the beach be deferred until the January meeting.
6) Under Old Business, Commissioner Murdock acknowledged he had asked staff to provide copies of the February 2010 Paddle Tennis Report. He went on to add that he made the request when the project was in the Capital Plan for 2012. Based on the last Financial Planning Meeting and the project being removed, he recommended that the issue be tabled. The Committee concurred.
Commissioner Murdock inquired into the status of the discussions regarding the Triathlon that was presented at the last Committee meeting. Staff stated that they have not heard any more from the group but that they would try to reach out to them to see if they were still interested in pursuing it. Staff added that they did not mention a firm timeframe but were looking at either 2012 or 2013.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:53 p.m.
Minutes taken by Bill Lambrecht
MINUTES APPROVED ON JANUARY 16, 2012.