JOINT MEETING MINUTES OF THE
MUNICIPAL SERVICES COMMTTEE OF THE VILLAGE BOARD
AND THE WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT’S
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMITTEE
Date: January 21, 2013
Location: Village Training Room
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Village Trustees: Krueger, Swanson; and Wolf
Village Staff: Mayerhofer, Cruz
Park District Commissioners: Brault; Shelley; Crowley; Olvany; Graham;
Park District Staff: Lambrecht; Bingham; Eppelheimer; Bowen; Specht; Heafey; Donoghue; Groves
Topics for Discussion:
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Elmwood Avenue Right of Way – Joint Meeting with the Village Municipal Services Committee
a) Review preliminary design
b) Discuss the Park District’s regulations
c) Discuss operations and maintenance and relationship moving forward including opportunities for shared services/partnership.
3) Approval of Minutes from November 19, 2012
4) Approval of Minutes from January 14, 2013
5) Communications and Correspondence
6) Recognition of Visitors
7) Sailing Beach Operations
8) Manager’s Reports
9) Old Business
10) New Business
1) Chairman Brault called the meeting to order at 6:35 pm. Those in attendance from the Village were Trustees Cam Krueger, Alan Swanson and Julie Wolf. Village staff members included Director of Engineering Brigitte Mayerhofer and Assistant Director Jorge Cruz.
2) Trustee Krueger stated that the Village has decided to keep the Elmwood Avenue Right-of-way and maintain it for passive use. They are also considering some improvements that would make the site accessible contingent upon funds being available. Ms. Mayerhofer stated the site plan includes an accessible path including a foot bridge. It also includes bicycle racks and benches. The intent is to remove the non-native species plants. Trustee Krueger asked if the Park District had any questions relative to the site or the plans.
President Brault stated that the Park Board has not reviewed the plan nor had any extensive discussion about the site. He went on to state that since the property lies between Gillson Park and Langdon Park, once it is made accessible, people will access it because it is free access to the lake. The traffic will increase which is what the Park District experienced at Langdon before it became a pay-to-use swimming facility six years ago. Trustee Krueger stated they have already experienced some of those problems. Trustee Swanson asked if people gain access at Elmwood, can they exit at Langdon. President Brault replied that the Park District allows people who walk the shore to enter or exit at either park. However, they are not allowed to stop within the sailing beach or the swimming areas.
Trustee Swanson stated it is the Village’s intention to have the Elmwood right-of-way be a park and that an ordinance would be passed to restrict swimming and boating. He went on to say that the Village is not equipped to be in the public land use business and asked if an intergovernmental agreement would be required to have the Park District manage the property.
Trustee Krueger asked if the Park District would have any problems with people accessing the shoreline through Elmwood and then wanting to go to either Gillson or Langdon and if it had been a problem in the past.
Lakefront Manager Holly Specht stated it is difficult to tell where people came from once they get to one of our parks. People could enter at Langdon and walk to Gillson and vice versa. Commissioner Shelly added she believes the bigger problem is people stopping on private beaches and swimming no matter how they access the area and that is difficult to control. Trustee Krueger asked if it was any worse in 2012 than previous years. Superintendent Bingham replied that 2012 was a very unusual year. It was hotter and drier than most years and that use of the lakefront had been higher than in previous years as a result years. Trustee Krueger asked why people swim off the private beaches. Commissioner Shelly replied that people do that because it is free and no one stops them. Trustee Swanson added that there are limits to where people can walk undisturbed and that changes based on lake levels. Trustee Kruger asked if you have a boat on the Sailing Beach, can you swim at the guarded Swimming Beach. Ms. Bingham replied that a boat permit gets the member four passes that allows them to swim at the Swimming Beach.
President Brault stated that controls have varied and the Park District has adjusted to resolving problems at Langdon and the overlook area at Gillson. During 2012, much more stringent rules and enforcement were put into place at the Gillson Overlook. However, it is still difficult to control even with the added enforcements but it was an improvement from previous years.
Trustee Swanson asked that if the Village gave the Elmwood property to the Park District, what would be done with it. He remembers the issues at Langdon and what it took to rectify the problems there. President Brault replied that it depends on what the Village’s priorities are. If the goal is to allow access to the water’s edge, then problems will ensue. Trustee Swanson replied that the goal is to preserve public access, preserve the natural setting and allow people access to enjoy the natural habitat. They want to make it accessible to everyone without having to have “guards” on duty. President Brault replied that as the Park District discovered the best way to come up with a final solution is to “learn by doing”. Since the Elmwood space is not very wide, the use may cause self-regulation and what you start with may not be what you end up with.
Trustee Wolf stated there could be situations that the Village would not be equipped to deal with since it is not in the business of parks and recreation. She added that she believes the management would be more successful if it mirrored what the Park District does on its property. President Brault replied that there are no lakeshore areas that are not guarded nor have security since all areas are monitored.
Trustee Krueger stated that they don’t seem to be any closer to resolving the issues facing the Village. President Brault replied that the rules of the two agencies may not be identical but general rules could apply to any publically-held lakefront property.
Trustee Krueger stated they have options available to control access but maybe it would be better if the Park District’s mechanisms are in place to control access. President Brault noted to date that a lot of the security put in place to control water access indicates that an area like Langdon, standing on its own, operates at a financial loss. It is almost impossible to keep people out of the water if you allow access unless you provide security.
Commissioner Crowley added that just because of the heightened awareness that the Elmwood parcel has received it is liable to get more use. Commissioner Shelly added that it also comes on the heels of increased enforcement of the no-swimming rules on the Gillson overlook so people are looking for new free access points. Commissioner Crowley stated that that it is almost a given that there will be an increase of people wanting to use the property if it is left uncontrolled.
Trustee Krueger stated that no matter what people will be able to walk the shoreline just because of the law. Ms. Bingham replied that there would have to be some research on the specific laws governing lake access. Trustee Krueger asked if the Coast Guard has the authority to remove violators who swim on the private beaches. Ms. Specht added that the Coast Guard does not enforce rules on the shore. Trustee Krueger stated that the police will not enforce the rules so there needs to be some clarification of who would enforce any rules that are put into place on the property.
President Brault reiterated that the Coast Guard would not enforce no-swimming rules. Commissioner Shelly added she believes a lot of people will go there to swim especially once the word is out that it is available.
Trustee Swanson asked if people can launch kayaks at the Sailing Beach. Commissioner Shelly replied that they can if they have purchased a permit. Trustee Kruger asked what the size of the overlook area is at Gillson and Superintendent Lambrecht replied it is about 1,200 feet.
Trustee Swanson asked if the Park District would have any interest in the Elmwood property. President Brault replied that the Park District is willing to work with the Village to help with the issue. In light of the Park District’s experience, there is a wide range of issues to deal with.
Trustee Swanson asked if the Park District would have any interest in managing it. President Brault replied that currently the Park District is willing to commit to assisting with ongoing maintenance. Trustee Swanson asked if the commissioners and Park District staff could discuss it further and see if there is any interest in assisting with any of the management issues.
Trustee Krueger asked how many security personnel are used on the Overlook area. Ms. Specht replied there are seven on the weekends – five walk the shoreline and two are rovers. Off-duty police provide backup if needed on weekends.
Trustee Krueger asked if one person could patrol the Elmwood property. Ms. Specht replied that if there are problems, backup is essential. You would also have to provide break time. Commissioner Crowley added that the number of people needed could be determined by the situation at hand. Trustee Wolf asked how many staff work at Langdon Park. Ms. Specht replied there are three guards and a supervisor when the beach is open for swimming. If the weather is poor, the staff is adjusted accordingly. Trustee Swanson asked what regulates the number of personnel. Ms. Specht replied that the Park District follows the guidelines outlined by the American Red Cross for the beaches.
Trustee Swanson stated the intent is that the Elmwood property would remain in public ownership and to allow passive use of the site. He also added he is not sure what “passive” use is. The Village Board needs to be able to defend whatever they do at that property.
President Brault asked if the Village is asking for the Park District to evaluate all options. Trustee Swanson replied that is the direction they are heading. Trustee Wolf added that the intent is to clean out all of the invasive plant species and enhance the landscaping to keep it for passive use. Trustee Swanson added there is no consensus to add personnel as security or lifeguards.
Trustee Krueger asked to be able to understand what the financial impact would be for providing ongoing maintenance. Also, what would it cost to manage with posted with signs stating “No Swimming/Sailing/Fires or Alcohol”. He stated the Village wants to know if the Park District would take time to consider all of the options in order to assist the Village.
Commissioner Crowley stated that the Park Board just went through this same exercise with the Overlook in Gillson Park so there is some basis for evaluating it. Trustee Swanson stated it is important for the Village to understand what the costs are to manage the property. Commissioner Shelly also stated that she is concerned about the costs when there are no offsetting revenues to pay for it.
Trustee Swanson asked that the Park District develop options with the cost implications for each. President Brault agreed that staff will develop the costs for the groups to review.
Trustee Swanson asked what happens in other communities with such parcels. Trustee Krueger stated he has visited some properties where it is posted no swimming and the line is delineated between public and private. Ms. Bingham added that most of the beaches similar to Elmwood are not as inviting since they are located at the base of a bluff and for the most part are gravel beaches. In Wilmette, we have the issue of easy access since it is easy to get to Gillson from the Edens Expressway and from public transportation.
President Brault finalized the discussion by stating that the Park District will evaluate various alternatives including operating costs and pass that information along to the Village.
The Municipal Services Committee continued their meeting in the training room.
The Parks & Recreation Committee took a brief recess at 7:28 pm and relocated their meeting to the Village Hall Council Chambers.
The Parks & Recreation Committee meeting reconvened at 7:40 pm.
3) The Committee reviewed the minutes of November 19, 2012 which were approved by general consent.
4) The Committee reviewed the minutes of January 14, 2013 which were approved by general consent.
5) Under Communications and Correspondence, an email dated January 16, 2013 was received from Kenny Gatesman providing comments and suggestions in regard to the lakefront. Additional correspondence received included a letter from Seth Martin and Jeanne Kelso, an email from Patty Hanson, and an email from Dennis McBride, all of which were related to the lakefront.
6) Under Recognition of Visitors, President Brault recognized Judith Godfried, 1408 Wilmette Avenue. Ms. Godfried stated she was surprised to find out that the walking/running track at the Community Recreation Center (CRC) was not open for free to the public. She has been using the track at Glenview where they do not charge and it is available for several hours of the day. The track at Skokie is also open to the public. She went on to add that there would be benefits to the Park District to allow people to walk for free. They might also then find something else to do in the building and sign up for other programs. She feels it is important for Wilmette residents to be able to use their own track instead of having to go to other communities. She is also representing Nancy Johnson and about ten other people who feel the same way. The Park Board should evaluate the situation and figure out a way to allow use of the track without any fees.
President Brault stated that this issue has come before the Committee in the past. He then asked staff to explain the ramifications of allowing free access.
Superintendent. Bingham stated that when the Fitness Center was first conceived, an off-shoot of building the gymnastics facility was the addition of a track around the perimeter of the Fitness Center. Several seniors wished to use the track so they started a walking club which entailed purchasing a walking pass at a nominal fee. The issue with allowing free open access to the track is that a patron could say they wanted to walk the track for free but then actually use the fitness equipment instead without having a membership. Our club is small and our track is smaller in scale compared to other facilities in the area. The Park District’s philosophy has been for users to pay for the facilities they use.
President Brault suggested that the Park District issue Ms. Godfried a two-week pass at no charge in order to provide her with a chance to try out the facility and staff agreed to provide the pass.
7) The Committee next opened the discussion of the Sailing Beach including the storage and use of stand up paddle boards (SUP’s).
Norm Hansen, 2200 Greenwood Avenue, stated he is a sailor who is in favor of relocating the SUP’s. There is a problem with children using them and getting in the way of serious sailors. Sailboards are okay since they are wind-powered. He recommends relocating the kayaks and SUP’s.
Commissioner Crowley stated he remembered the Committee discussing this topic last fall. One of the things which will help the entire sailing operation is the improved enforcement of the rules.
Ronnie Crystal, 250 Vista Court, stated he spends most of the summer at the Sailing Beach. SUP’s are a quickly growing sport and provide easy income for the Park District. However, there are some real safety concerns when mixed with other boat types especially catamarans and board boats. Accidents are inevitable with the configuration as it now stands. The current location of the storage of the SUP’s has caused a congestion problem and SUP owners want to “play” with their boards. His recommendation is that the long-term relocation to Langdon might be the answer. The immediate answer though might be to relocate them to the south end of the Sailing Beach and move the fence dividing Swimming and Sailing father south. The problem might still be that the SUP users could go along the shore and get in the way of boaters trying to get to the beach. The north end of the beach is overcrowded and the chain link fence is south of where it is supposed to be located. The two north rows (17 and 18) should be redistributed to alleviate all of the boats trying to get the same beach frontage.
President Brault asked what boat has the right of way. The sailors replied that the sailboat does because it is under “power” and has little control when trying to beach once the rudders and center boards, etc. have been pulled up. Commissioner Shelly added that SUP users may not realize that sailboat users have limited or no control when beaching their boats.
Ronnie Crystal stated that the contract for SUP’s should state they must travel south instead of hanging around the north end or going back in forth in front of Sailing.
Commissioner Crowley believes there are a number of issues to resolve moving forward. People congregate, including sailors, in aisles and along the shore line which makes it difficult to move the boats around. The sailors also need to help “patrol” themselves.
Mr. Crystal added that when staff sets up the orange cones to designate areas where people should not sit helps to make it easier for the sailors to enforce the rule. There does seem to be a lot more non-sailors hanging out at the beach. Staff needs to enforce the rules relative to who is allowed on the beach. People are bringing friends into hang out for the day which causes lots of problems.
Chris Dewey – 1610 Walnut Avenue: He stated he agrees with Ronnie Crystal in that SUP’s do not belong on the Sailing Beach. If there is any chop to the water, those sailors trying to bring their boat to shore cannot see people who are sitting on the SUP’s which seems to be the way most people use them. They even “gang” the SUP’s together to make a raft. Staff is limited in what they can do but they should still be a presence to enforce the rules rather than having a group of kids be in charge. A handful of sailors also own SUP’s and they feel that moving the boards to the south of Sailing will not solve the problem. President Brault stated that he does not believe the SUP’s belong on or near the Swimming Beach and that the overlook area is where no uses are allowed.
Chris Dewey asked why staff doesn’t do more to monitor the water and use of the Sailing Beach in order to reduce the congestion. President Brault replied there is a delicate balance between the users who pay to use a facility and the taxpayers who paid for the land including ongoing maintenance. The Park Board is charged to look for the right balance.
Commissioner Shelly asked why no one has addressed the kayakers. Chris Dewey replied that the kayak population is small enough that it has not been an issue. Kayakers also have a tendency to use the water when the weather is not conducive for sailing.
Erin Arnold, 1331 Greenwood Avenue: She stated she grew up on the Sailing Beach and there is now a definite increase in the number of boats, especially SUP’s. She has also noticed more people going off the private beaches to use the lake. She thinks the Sailing Beach should be flipped end-for-end with the catamarans moved south and the board boats moved north. The weekends at the north end can be unbearable due to crowds but the rental area is not as congested. The SUP’s would then be closer to the Swimming Beach for the swimmers which would keep them off the private beaches. The bigger safety issue to her is the number of children that still play in the water in front of the Sailing Beach.
Mike Kellogg: He suggested putting in a few lines and buoys at the north end to better delineate the property line. He also agrees that the SUP’s need to be moved away from Sailing. President Brault stated that he is actually hearing more issues than just the SUP’s. It seems that crowding and congestion plus swimming in front of Sailing and off of private property are also issues.
Shlomo Kulback, 1414 Wilmette Avenue: He stated he has traveled all over the world and SUP’s are becoming more and more popular all over the world. The SUP’s need to be moved and it is time to deal with it.
President Brault asked that staff review the recommendations that had been made to the Committee.
Superintendent Bingham apologized for not having enough copies of the meeting packet but offered to e-mail copies if people wanted them. She also explained staff had been reviewing the options and a survey was mailed to all Sailing Beach users. As a result, staff has come up with three recommendations to resolve the issues.
• Option #1 - Move the SUP’s to the south end of the Sailing Beach, expand the Sailing Beach south and relocate the fence, and relocate the racks to this area. This would add about 70 feet to the Sailing Beach.
Commissioner Shelly asked if the area could be expanded if the popularity of SUP’s increases. Ms. Bingham replied that this can be an evolving project.
• Option #2 - Move the SUP’s to Langdon Park. If that is done, more staff would have to be added at that location. It also is more difficult to get the SUP’s to the beach and there is no drop-off area at the park for people to drop off their SUP’s. Parking would also be an issue since people would be forced to park on the street in the surrounding neighborhood. It would also separate a variety of boats away from any help the sailing staff could provide on the water.
Commissioner Shelly stated she believes the boards are better off remaining at Gillson in a separate area since people don’t go very far on the SUP’s.
• Option #3 – Section off an area of the overlook north of the pier at the south end of Gillson.
Commissioner Shelly stated she doesn’t think that is a safe location due to the proximity of the pier.
President Brault asked if redistributing the catamarans is part of this discussion. Commissioner Crowley recommended keeping the discussions separate.
Commissioner Brault asked about moving the SUP’s to the Aquatics Beach. Both Superintendent Bingham and Ms. Specht stated there is already too much use since Aquatics Camp is staged in that area and dog beach users are always crossing through there.
President Brault stated he believes that moving them to the south end of Sailing doesn’t help much and Commissioner Crowley agreed. He also agreed that the parking and access issues at Langdon are a problem. He is also not sure that north of the pier is the best answer. He still looks at this issue as a work in progress.
Ms. Specht reported that last year there were 55 trail-in permits and 20 those were sold to Northwest Passage.
President Brault asked if staff could “ferry” the boats to Langdon from Gillson. Commissioner Crowley stated he believes that it would be very difficult to do and a lot of work. It could also add extra work for staff and take them away from other tasks at the Sailing Beach.
President Brault stated that Langdon would be challenging due to the drop off/parking issues. We already allow swimming here and traffic has not been an issue. Superintendent Bingham added that most people swimming at Langdon live in the neighborhood and walk to the beach.
Commissioner Crowley stated he believes that if something is going to be done out of the norm, then people need to be more flexible off of the Sailing Beach. Commissioner Shelly stated she is ok with Langdon but is opposed to the south end of the Swimming Beach. Commissioner Crowley stated he believes it would be more dangerous to have the SUP’s near the rental boats.
Michelle Landrew – 407 Central Avenue: She stated she owns a catamaran, a kayak and an SUP. She feels many sailors are frustrated by the SUP owners who just go there to “hang out”. Her feeling is that if the only boat people own is an SUP, they should move it to Langdon or the south end. It would also be an issue for people who have more than one kind of boat.
Superintendent Bingham stated that staff will review the options discussed and come back with costs and the pros and cons of each alternative.
Commissioner Shelly stated she wants to look at the south end of the Swimming Beach and believes Langdon will be too much trouble due to the lack of parking and limited access. She agrees that the people who hang out at Sailing is a problem and that needs to be addressed.
President Brault asked staff to come back at the February meeting with their report and thanked all those in attendance for their input.
Superintendent Bingham began the discussion on the Sailing Beach by reviewing the input received from the survey which had been sent to all users. There was a lot of input about the SUP’s similar to what the Committee has heard. Some comments were related to safety and improved facilities. Many sailors wanted to see improved office facilities and “real” washrooms with running water.
President Brault asked if anything had been learned this past year in regard to the rescue boat. Ms. Specht replied that people were now more cautious on marginal weather days although staff still kept an eye on people and assisted when weather allowed. They always have on hand one rigid hull inflatable and the jet skis available when the weather allowed.
President Brault asked how we communicate with the users on what we will do if they need help. Ms. Specht replied the contract states the Park District does not provide rescue services. As a result, they do tell them that if the boats are out, staff and other sailors will watch as well. The sailors in attendance stated emphatically that if needed they call the Coast Guard.
Superintendent Bingham added that staff can also do a better job of letting sailors know when staff can be of help. President Brault stated he wants to make sure people understand that they sail at their own risk. Erin Arnold asked what happens when there is equipment failure even on a calm day since she had not heard of a “no-rescue service” before. President Brault stated there had been a lot of discussion about this issue the previous year. The reaction from sailors at that time was to not provide the service since it made less experienced sailors to take more chances. In addition, as staff as stated, it was included in the 2012 sailing contract and there was no outcry from the sailors at that time.
Erin Arnold also added she gets the sense that if someone is able to get past the checkers, they are not doing a good job. She has also heard that some social media sources provide ways of circumventing the system. She added that the rules need to be enforced which is not currently being done.
Ronnie Crystal stated that part of the problem is that staff doesn’t look at the photo when they scan the card so people just pass them around for other people to use. The issue used to be the same when young adults were checking at the gates but when older adults were hired, enforcement improved. President Brault replied that in the survey, 68% percent of users don’t want the passes to be checked. Someone in the audience stated that if enforcement is improved the increased revenue should offset extra labor costs.
Other recommendations from those in attendance were:
• Hire a “security” person that is not part of the Sailing Beach staff.
• We need staff members who provide good service and are firm when needed to be.
Brian Maloney stated he is not a fan of being checked in when he enters the beach and especially being approached once he is already on the beach to have his passes checked.
Superintendent Bingham responded that staff needs to improve enforcement and stop problems before they get too involved. Ronnie Crystal stated no one checks anyone who enters from the private property and that may get worse with Elmwood Avenue being available for access.
8) Under Manager Reports, Lakefront Manager Holly Specht reported there were five rentals at Lakeview In January to date. Picnic reservations are coming in from residents for the summer season. Staff has been busy interviewing and hiring summer staff. Sailing beach contracts for 2013 will be mailed in two weeks. President Brault asked about the success of the rental chairs and umbrellas and staff replied that the umbrellas do not make it through a season. There are some but not a lot of rentals over the course of the summer.
Recreation Program Manager Carol Heafey reported on the retirement of Bob Bierie this month. As a result, a part-time Artistic Director will be hired for the theater programs as well as a part-time Technical Director and construction staff. The Children’s Theater presentation of Jungle Book will be taking place beginning next week for two weekends. their next theatre presentation will be Annie. The Camp Fair is taking place tomorrow evening, January 22, in the CRC sports gym. Staff has been busy reviewing summer applications and conducting interviews. Staff will start using an on-line application for summer jobs in the near future which will cut down on a lot of paper processing. Preschool registration currently stands at 66 for the 2013 fall session which is 13 more than last year at this time.
Community Recreation Center Manager Jeff Groves reported the Center Fitness Club staff has been looking at new equipment including treadmills, recumbent bikes and stair masters. They have also been reviewing alternatives for the flooring in the free weight area. Membership currently stands at 1,726 members. A number of staff will be attending the Illinois Park and Recreation Conference later this week.
This Gymnastics session has been very strong which is common after coming off a Summer Olympic year. There were long waiting lists but staff was able to accommodate 150 off of the waiting list. New carpeting has been installed in rooms 115, 116, 117, 118 and 119 as well as the staff office area.
9) Old Business: None
10) Under New Business, Superintendent Bingham asked that the Committee review Early Childhood fee increases for the next calendar year. The increase will be $18 per person.
Commissioner Crowley stated that there was a story about a reckless driver at the Community Recreation Center who almost hit a child in the parking lot. He asked what could be done about it and whether it was a speed bump or stop sign. Staff replied that speed bumps are not popular because of their being a tripping hazard. Superintendent Lambrecht will discuss the issue further with a traffic engineer to get their recommendations.
There being no further discussion, the meeting was adjourned at 9:25 pm.
Minutes taken by Bill Lambrecht
MINUTES APPROVED ON FEBRUARY 18, 2013.