WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
LAKEFRONT COMMITTEE MEETING
Date: June 3, 2013
Location: Village Hall Training Room
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Commissioners: Benz, Abbott, Olvany
Staff: Wilson, Bingham, Lambrecht, Donoghue, Eppelheimer
Topics for Discussion:
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Communication and Correspondence
3) Recognition of Visitors
4) Manager’s Reports
5) New Business
6) Old Business
1) The meeting was called to order at 6:30 pm.
2) Communications and Correspondence: None
3) Recognition of Visitors: None
4) Under Managers Reports, Lakefront Manager Holly Specht reported that several people have been asking about the lakefront and what is next in regard to the Lakefront Master Plan. The beach opened on Memorial Day weekend, staff is in place and everything is running smoothly. However, the New Trier Sunrise Graduation Party was held last night at the beach with about 400-500 students, our staff, and the Wilmette Police from 4 to 6 am.
Lakeview Center had 21 rentals in 23 days last month so staff has been very busy. There has also been approximately 270 check-ins at the sailing beach so far and 589 slips have been sold. The Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) beach has been set up and the buoys were put out today. The fence is up and people are starting to bring in paddle boards.
Holly reported staff has begun patrolling at Elmwood Dunes and they were approached by neighbors who questioned the patrols. Staff explained staff was there to keep people from swimming at that beach and that they were violating park policies. Director Wilson added that Superintendent Bingham received a request via Village staff from the legal counsel of the Noyes family to ask our staff to inform people what they can or cannot do as far as the Noyes’ property is concerned as well as in regard to Village property. We responded that the Park District does not provide any enforcement on private property but we are there to enforce the Village’s right-of-way which is now known as Elmwood Dunes.
Commissioner Olvany stated that at a recent Committee meeting, discussion took place on the monitoring of the street level vs. the beach level at Elmwood. Superintendent Bingham replied that the Village was informed that if our staff sees a drinking party at Elmwood, they should radio for someone to call the police. However, our staff will not approach the groups or ask them to leave. Commissioner Olvany stated that the neighbors should know that it is not the Park District’s responsibility.
Commissioner Benz noticed the fence extensions at Elmwood are continuing to extend and he doesn’t see anything wrong with telling homeowners that the posts are too close to the water’s edge. Commissioner Olvany asked if a Gator would be able to get through and Holly responded that it would as a result of one of the neighbors backing his fence up a bit so that the beach cleaner can sweep a larger area. Commissioner Olvany stated that he is a regular walker of the beach, and it is dramatic what the grooming and care done by the Park District does for this asset.
Under New Business, Commissioner Olvany stated that when he has talked to the public about the formation of the Lakefront Committee, they all have been very pleased and supportive of it since the community is trying to grasp all of the issues related to the lakefront. Commissioners Benz and Abbott both agreed they have also received positives responses from the public.
Commissioner Benz asked how the Wilmette Harbor Association’s relationship has been with the lakefront staff and if there was a change of behavior since the harbor opened. Holly and Bill replied that they have not seen any changes. Superintendent Bingham stated we have a very good relationship with the harbor. Director Wilson added that the only time it was challenging was when the topic of the lease came up. Otherwise, operationally we work very well together.
5) Under New Business, Commissioner Benz indicated that we need to determine where we are with the Lakefront Master Plan and he is proposing the Committee review a few items. The first document is a memo from Superintendent Lambrecht which lists what staff considers being priorities.
Superintendent Lambrecht stated that at the request of the committee, staff put together a list of items for priority focus in the next few years. Road reconstruction is important since the roads were built by the WPA and there is no drainage underneath. This has caused pavement to shift all over the park. In addition, the curbs are also disintegrating. The old storm sewer system in the park is made up of old clay pipes and there are areas where the pipes have collapsed. The storm sewers run under the street in some locations. A new plan should involve putting in oversized pipes in order to have more water storage underneath.
Commissioner Abbott stated that the document Superintendent Lambrecht created was an excellent review of the infrastructure suggesting three major areas: Gillson, Langdon and landscaping. Under Gillson there were two sub-sets – the road reconstruction including utilities that follow the roads and the facilities. Superintendent Lambrecht stated this document does not necessarily indicate when the work could or would be done but he does think that the #1 priority is road construction and #1a is the beach house.
Commissioner Olvany stated this was an excellent document that clearly lays out the issues. He suggested the committee go through some of these items and classify them in three different categories: Must-Do, Almost Must-Do, and It Would Be Nice.
Superintendent Bingham stated she is thinking in terms of today, tomorrow and later down the road as opposed to taking something off the list completely. Commissioner Benz stated that what we are trying to do with this committee structure is facilitate these changes in order to move this project forward which he can’t emphasize enough. It was also a directive by the Board President that it is time to move this project forward.
Commissioner Abbott stated he questions the storm sewer item on the list of projects since he would think that all the rain that falls in the park goes into the lake instead of a river which is unique. Superintendent Lambrecht stated that we have had various agencies tell us that storm water run-off work does not need to be permitted. We went from three to one outfalls and the one remaining one was not designed to handle all the water. Currently, when we have a big storm the water goes down to the south end of the beach and is unable to get out fast enough. The whole toe of the boot floods and the water can be up to 40 inches deep. We do get some ponding and have to close the park because of flooding. The land fill material from Overlook Drive out is actually concrete rubble.
Commissioner Abbott asked if the drainage was not only for the roadways but for land areas as well and Superintendent Lambrecht replied yes and that everything consists of surface run-off. He added that there are areas that flood now on the east side of the road between the toe of the boot and the pier which is always wet and holds water although a lot of that can be fixed with re-grading those areas.
Commissioner Abbott thought the single biggest decision with the most ramifications is whether or not the roadway would be replaced in its current configuration or with a new configuration. Commissioner Olvany stated that road configurations should be discussed at a later date.
In regard to permeable pavers, Superintendent Lambrecht stated that from a staff’s point of view over the course of the lakefront hearings, it is a “green” answer. Commissioner Abbott stated it is a green answer not based in the realities of this situation. Director Wilson suggested we keep it is as an alternative.
Superintendent Lambrecht added that Sheridan Shores Yacht Club has their own water service but the Coast Guard gets water through our service which includes water going to drinking fountains. There are two fire hydrants but the fire department will not use them due to low water pressure. Commissioner Olvany stated that we need to put this item on the must-do list.
There was discussion about the pedestrian stairway at the north end of the park at Lake Street. Commissioner Olvany felt that all walkways in the park are important and need to have a better layout. In his mind, this is a Must-Do project.
Commissioner Abbott stated there are three major entrances to the park and none are welcoming to pedestrian traffic. Commissioner Olvany stated incorporating bicycles is an important factor too.
Superintendent Lambrecht feels the roadway, sewer and walkway issues are driven by the beach house plans, relating to utilities and an improved/updated lift station.
Commissioner Abbott asked if there were current deficiencies or if it is more of an infrastructure issue. Superintendent Lambrecht replied he thinks it is mostly an upgraded version of what’s already there but a redesign from a traffic standpoint might help. Commissioner Abbott then asked if the parking lot meets our needs on the weekends and Superintendent Bingham replied that the parking lot is only filled to capacity a couple of times in the season. Director Wilson stated the reason for that is because the lakefront staff controls the sales of daily passes to allow for our season pass holders. Commissioner Olvany stated he would like to see less parking rather than more.
Superintendent Lambrecht also stated that because the elevation is so low and due to the fluctuation of the water table, it would be a gamble to spend a lot of money on a parking lot that doesn’t work well which is why staff is not recommending the permeable pavers in the parking lot. Commissioner Olvany asked if staff had anything in mind for when traffic is going down the hill on the north end and Superintendent Lambrecht replied that is why we need to do a traffic study. Superintendent Lambrecht also stated that when he worked at the beach in the 1970’s, the driveway which comes off of Michigan Avenue was the entrance to the beach parking lot. Commissioner Olvany asked if there was once a historical reason the entrance was made to go down the hill and Superintendent Lambrecht replied mostly because of the traffic on Michigan Avenue which was a nightmare at the time. Also, at the top of Lake Avenue is where the water plant is located and the fence is directly behind the curb which then runs up and goes south.
Commissioner Abbott stated the transportation issue would require the most work and would include bike and pedestrian paths and there may be a need for some professional assistance. Superintendent Lambrecht stated we could take 10 of these items and combine them all into one. Commissioner Olvany agreed with Commissioner Abbott and stated that the board should come to a consensus on what the vision should be regarding traffic patterns, transportation and infrastructure needs. The board could then better decide on other park issues.
Director Wilson stated that the consultants from Gewalt Hamilton have not been involved in the master plan to date. Commissioner Benz stated the ideal would be to start collecting data on traffic patterns. Superintendent Lambrecht indicated he could call them tomorrow to ask about pricing for a traffic study.
Commissioner Olvany moved and Commissioner Abbott seconded a motion to direct staff to obtain quotes for a traffic study at the lakefront and if the cost is reasonable, then the committee would recommend it to the full Board.
By a voice vote, voting Yes – All; voting No – None. Motion Carried.
In regard to the electrical work, Superintendent Lambrecht stated it would involve putting pipes in the ground and that once again ties into the beach house. Currently the power for the beach house is underground.
There is also sanitation in the beach house and Lakeview Center and the lift station was originally built as part of the beach house project. Due to elevation issues between the facilities and problems caused when there is a power outage, the lift stations are in need of replacement. In addition, as part of the beach house construction we should add skylights in the bathrooms to provide light in the event of a power outage. He suggests we put a small generator in there to keep that lift station operational in the event of a power outage.
Regarding Wallace Bowl repairs, Superintendent Lambrecht stated that the needs are maintenance issues that continue to be deferred due to the Lakefront Master Plan process.
In regard to ADA compliance, Commissioner Benz asked if we were sure that we need ADA approval for an enlarged kitchen for wheelchairs. Superintendent Lambrecht replied if we put in accessible counters then yes we would need to comply. Director Wilson stated we haven’t tracked the statistics but we did lose revenue due to the size of Lakeview. The maximum capacity for the room is 80 with tables and chairs or 100 without. Commissioner Olvany stated that if the space was expanded, it would increase our rental revenue and provide more programming opportunities but would like to see some hard data demonstrating what the financial return would be over a period of time. Commissioner Benz agreed. Director Wilson said staff could create an analysis. He has seen events at other lakefront parks that we could potentially do, such as Lake Forest. It was discussed that any ADA related improvements can be funded through our tax levy. The committee requested a cost analysis of what portion of improvements would be covered under the ADA funding and what would be part of the Lakefront Redevelopment costs.
Regarding the beach house, discussion took place regarding the size and design. Superintendent Lambrecht stated that the needs include a better janitorial closet and air conditioning for staff areas and the concession area. The current building was poorly designed and the bathrooms are too small. We could remove the lockers and showers which are never used and add more toilets. A large food service area is also needed.
Commissioner Olvany suggested a site visit to neighboring park districts and directed staff to make the arrangements. These visits could help us put a better perspective on what our needs are and what the options are.
Commissioner Benz stated that we need to carefully look at what our needs are when deciding on the size of the facility. We should evaluate the minimum operational needs, how we would use an activity room and what our food service operation should look like. Commissioner Abbot agreed.
Superintendent Bowen stated that we should consider the need for adequate space for campers during dangerous weather situations. Commissioner Benz agreed that this issue should be a consideration. Director Wilson stated that we could put together a summary of our minimum needs in a report. Commissioner Olvany agreed and said staff should make suggestions for minimal needs and the commissioners, during the visionary stage, should make the big picture decisions such as the scope of the food service operation.
Superintendent Lambrecht stated that in terms of the beach house, the condition is very poor and we cannot wait another 10 years to do something. The cost of the quick fixes may not be worth it. Commissioner Olvany asked if we could isolate the maintenance costs and Lambrecht said he could. This would help us determine if we are fixing things we should not be fixing and this will help in later discussions when some individuals may tell us the building is fine.
There was some discussion of the beach house being combined with the sailing shack. Superintendant Lambrecht stated that moving the sailing shack further north is not a good idea. Our sailors already think it is too far south. Feedback we have received so far indicates they would not like a dual-purpose facility but would like a sailing shack further north. We would also need all new utilities at that location. More discussion is needed to plan for the current needs as well as trend shifts and future needs. Director Wilson stated that staff is always looking for more space and firmly believes if we have more programmable space the users will come, similar to the CRC when people thought we would never use all that space. In general, staff will always take more space if it is offered.
Commissioner Olvany asked staff who the regular customer is for rentals at the sailing beach. Holly Specht stated it is people who are in the park and see all of the sailboats as well as those who are regular renters. Commissioner Crowley stated that he thinks the sailing shack is where it needs to be. In addition, he feels we should have a bathroom/shower facility on the north end of the beach. Commissioner Olvany felt that would accommodate what people are looking for. Commissioner Olvany stated that people seem to want to stay all day at the sailing beach and if we provide a facility that meets their needs, they would spend more time there. The committee felt it could be a very simple structure, possibly a pre-fab.
Superintendant Bingham stated that the CRC often has 20 birthday parties a week and there could be wonderful opportunities at the lakefront if we made the space for it.
Regarding picnic tables, Superintendant Lambrecht stated that they were tired looking. It has also been a maintenance nightmare and we are forcing people to use tables where their feet are often in the mud. Commissioner Olvany asked if we need more or less and he suggested that all tables be in one area. Superintendent Lambrecht stated that it is better to spread out all over the park since people don’t want to be all crowded together. He also stated that we should have more grills, one for every table. We could also add double tables for larger family gatherings. Currently we permit two tables with one grill and there are 15 rentable areas. The sailors also have a picnic area with a grill on the north end of the sailing beach. Holly Specht reported that we often have the problem of people bringing their own grills.
There was some discussion on the material to put under the table – concrete vs. gravel. Superintendant Lambrecht stated gravel would be a poor choice. He also agreed that this is down on the list of priorities but it is an area in which a relatively low cost item could make a big impact. This can be discussed again once we know what the road layout will be.
Regarding street light fixtures, Superintendant Lambrecht said he would include this project with roads since wiring would need to go under the roads.
Regarding Langdon Beach, there was discussion on where it was pointed out that in terms of ADA accessibility, since Gillson Park is accessible, we are not required under the law to make Langdon accessible. The point at Langdon is to make it easier in general to get to the beach and that issues of stabilization and erosion prevention need to be addressed. The bluff continues to erode and get washed out. Commissioner Benz commented how wonderful the area looked after the Boy Scouts did a cleanup at Langdon last fall.
Commissioner Benz asked about permanent bathrooms and where they would be located. Superintendant Lambrecht said that JJR suggested putting them towards the bottom of the bluff on the other side of that walkway north of the walkway and suggested they could ramp it down and build structures next to the condo building making Langdon a greater expanse with a southern look rather than plunk it in the middle. Commissioners felt the area is easier to control due to limited access and therefore we would have fewer people sneaking onto the beach. The beach is a good asset right now and should be down on the priority list. There was discussion of options for fixing the walk to the beach which included stairs, re-grading and handrails.
Director Wilson stated that staff would like to get plumbing for bathrooms at Langdon instead of the port-a-potties. Commissioner Olvany added that it is the only thing not listed on the Must-Have list but it would be nice to have a toilet facility built into the bluff. Superintendant Lambrecht added that the tot lot is 30 years old. It was pointed out that the tot lot is heavily used by non-beach goers and also by the people living in the neighboring condos.
The committee was in agreement that a complete landscaping plan is a great idea for both Langdon and Gillson.
Commissioner Benz asked Director Wilson how his visits to various community groups went. Director Wilson commented that he found significantly more receptive groups that were also significantly less informed. They were very grateful we came to them on their own time. Ultimately we found it was too complicated for people to provide feedback. They felt they could give better feedback when there is a more formed plan. What we have received previously is feedback from those who live nearby who want to shape it all the way through and not wait for the final plan. When he was at the PTA’s in particular, the farther west he traveled, the less informed they were but they were no less passionate. They were more thankful that we were coming to them the farther west he went. No one had specific things they wanted to talk about except on more specific programming items like shows in the Gillson Bowl, etc. They loved the parks but universally the moms agreed the bathroom situation at the beach house is not pleasant. Also, we need better separation of pedestrians and cars. With the feedback he received, Director Wilson felt he was more comfortable with a more minimalistic approach than what was presented by JJR.
Commissioner Benz stated that we have a wonderful asset that is in need of repair and it’s time to repair. His vision moving forward is to take the input we have received with what we know we need and come up with a conceptual plan that we can bring to the public for their response. He suggests reaching out to various groups in the community to share their thoughts and ideas in order to elicit further feedback. These groups could include Rotary Clubs, PTA’s, or other service organizations. After much discussion, the committee decided to consider the idea and discuss it at the next meeting.
Commissioner Benz stated he broke up focus of this committee into 3 or 4 month segments. At the end of September we should have enough data so that we can then provide careful direction for the consultants which would give them until January to create a plan and submit it to us sometime between February and May for presentation to the public. Commissioner Olvany suggested that at the next meeting the committee and staff should come up with a reasonable timetable and think about the options discussed. He suggested we come back next month and decide what a reasonable timeline would look like. Committee Chair Benz added that every project has 3 major components: Programs, Schedule, and Cost. He felt it was helpful to have the sense of priorities thus far.
Commissioner Olvany moved and Commissioner Abbott seconded a motion to adjourn the June 3, 2013 Lakefront Committee meeting.
By a voice vote, voting Yes – All; voting No – None. Motion Carried.
There being no further discussion, the meeting was adjourned at 9:15 pm.
Minutes taken by Kathy Bingham.
MINUTES APPROVED ON JULY 1, 2013.