WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
LAKEFRONT COMMITTEE MEETING
Date: November 4, 2013
Location: Lakeview Center
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Commissioners: Chair Benz, Olvany, Abbott
Staff: Wilson, Bingham, Bowen, Eppelheimer, Lambrecht, Donoghue, Specht
Visitors: See attached list.
Topics for Discussion:
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Approval of Minutes
3) Communication and Correspondence
a) Email from Seth Martin re: Sledding Hill in Gillson Park
4) Recognition of Visitors
5) Presentation by SmithGroupJJR re: Lakefront Master Plan
6) Old Business
7) New Business
1) The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m.
2) The Committee approved the minutes of the October 21, 2013 Committee Meeting by general consent.
3) The Committee reviewed an email from Seth Martin regarding the location of a possible sledding hill in Gillson Park. The Committee also noted the receipt of a letter from Gwen Porter, Commodore of the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club, in regard to the future of the Yacht Club facility and a willingness to have an open dialog regarding the lease.
4) Under Recognition of Visitors, the Committee heard from Fred Fitzsimmons who reminded the Committee he had been very vocal in the past about the opportunities raised during the planning process. He believes the Park District needs to be looking at new revenue sources as part of the planning and he has not seen anything to date related to that. He also stated that he was disappointed that he did not see anything to date that would expand the use of the park to other areas during the year.
5) Chairman Benz then presented some guidelines in regard to how the meeting would proceed. The opportunities for those in attendance who would like to address the Committee or ask questions would be conducted after the presentation was complete. Chairman Benz introduced the consultants in attendance and asked Deb Mitchell of SmithGroupJJR to begin the presentation.
Ms. Mitchell reviewed how they had reached this point in the process by receiving the directions from the Park Board at their meeting on September 9, 2013. She added that they were provided with 18 topics for Gillson and 4 for Langdon Park. The intent was then to hold two public hearings, not including tonight’s presentation.
Ms. Mitchell started with Gillson Park. The five areas that were reviewed were:
A. Circulation Patterns
B. Beach House Area
C. Lakeview Center Area
E. Landscape Master Plan
A. On the topic of circulation, she stated there are limited options for circulation for pedestrians and bicyclists. The areas the group looked at included adding a sidewalk behind the curb to connect the south entrance to the walks east of the Coast Guard Station. They also looked at the “west” harbor walk but did not include it in the plan since this property is not under the control of the Park District. They have also developed the “Boot loop” which is a walk-around the perimeter section of the park that could be used for exercise as well as access. In addition, they have developed a bluff walk that would start at Lake Avenue and travel south to the Wallace Bowl where it could connect to the rest of the park system as well as a new access point for the swimming beach by utilizing the old entrance drive.
• Commissioner Benz asked if there would be a connection from the bluff walk to the Michigan Avenue public walk and Ms. Mitchell replied yes.
• Commissioner Abbott asked if there would be a cross connection from walkway section A and section C where the walking path crosses the road. Ms. Mitchell said that this is by the Coast Guard Station and there are some difficult topographical issues that make it difficult to place it anywhere else.
• Commissioner Abbott asked if the walks around the tennis courts were being removed. Ms. Mitchell replied that the walks in that area would remain.
• Commissioner Abbott asked if there would be any pedestrian access to the Sailing Beach. Ms. Mitchell said that it wasn’t clear on the plans but it could be considered.
• Commissioner Abbott also asked about the “middle drive” and if it would be replaced. Ms. Mitchell stated that the current plans do not replace it but keep it in the plan.
• Commissioner Abbott also asked if there were any larger loops that could be used. Ms. Mitchell replied that there are many options for varying the routes within the park.
• Commissioner Olvany asked why there was no reference picture for the “C” walks. Ms. Mitchell replied that those are typical concrete sidewalks like public walks.
• Commissioner Abbott asked two questions. First, what is the difference between dotted and continuous lines on the plan. Ms. Mitchell replied that dotted lines were existing walks and straight lines were new walks. His second question was about bicycle traffic. Ms. Mitchell explained that a bike lane would be painted on the roads and that the intent was to have bicycle traffic flow in the same direction as the cars. He also asked about the purpose of the harbor walk. Ms. Mitchell replied that this was in the list of requests from the Park Board. The walk is nice because it is along the water overlooking the harbor. However, the property is not under the Park District’s control.
Ms. Mitchell went on to explain the bluff walk concept which would be similar to the walk at Elder Park in Winnetka. It would also require the clearing of scrub materials on the bluff, similar to what has been done at Langdon Park.
• Commissioner Olvany liked the concept very much and asked what the surface would be made of. Ms. Mitchell replied that currently it is in the plan as concrete
Ms. Mitchell provided an overview of the new parking lot design which forces people to move farther south before looking for parking. It also eliminates the traffic jams that occur when people enter the park and immediately start going through aisles and block traffic flow. The current lot holds 325 cars. The parking study completed in the summer of 2013 showed that the capacity works. In general, there are very few days that it is over capacity.
• Commissioner Abbott stated he thought the lot would just be redesigned with no more pavement added and a better parking layout.
• Commissioner Olvany added he thought the idea of removing the large island and spreading the landscaped areas throughout the lot made for a much more aesthetically-pleasing use of the space.
Ms. Mitchell elaborated on the design stating that it maintains the control point at the bottom of Lake Avenue with a potential better design. The new road with the landscape areas limits looping traffic on the north side of the lot which in turn limits peak-time traffic impact.
• Commissioner Benz asked if the design included all new landscaping. Ms. Mitchell stated that it does and it also lends itself to the “dunes” concept of plant materials.
• Commissioner Abbott asked about Sailing Beach access. Ms. Mitchell replied that it would not change and that it could still be accessed from the north lot when driving back towards the Lake Avenue exit.
Ms. Mitchell stated that the design criterion for parking allows 380 square feet per car.
• Commissioner Abbott asked if landscaping could be removed and more parking added.
• Commissioner Olvany stated he liked the new design far better for both traffic flow and aesthetic appearances.
• Commissioner Abbott asked if the picnic area north of Wallace Bowl would remain. Ms. Mitchell stated that it would.
Ms. Mitchell elaborated on the new pedestrian access through the center of the lot with a continuous walk from Michigan Avenue straight to the beach house. It would include an accessible ramp on the south side of the old entrance. Commissioner Olvany stated that he thinks it is a great concept all around.
• Commissioner Abbott asked if the landscaping areas would include bioswales. Ms. Mitchell responded yes they would be included.
Tom LaLonde of Williams Architects presented a conceptual floor plan for a new beach house. The layout includes a central access through the building to the beach. The fence will now abut to the building on the north and south sides so the control point will be similar to the Family Aquatic Center. This eliminates the need for a fence in front of the beach house. The washrooms will include some lockers and more fixtures than the current facility. There will be no inside showers but instead there will be showers on the exterior of the building on towers on the east side. In addition, Family Changing Rooms will be included. Since these are past the admission point, users will not have to have their pass to re-enter the beach after using the washroom or concessions. The office will extend out on the east side so that they have good views of the beach on three sides. The concession stand will have access from both the beach side and the public side. Adjoining it will be an open air pavilion providing shade and tables on which to eat. It will also include a fireplace for cool days and for use before and after the regular season. There will be gates that can be opened when the beach is not open to allow people to gain access.
• Commissioner Olvany asked about public access to the washrooms. Mr. LaLonde stated that another feature is the addition of public washrooms to the north side of the building so non-beach users will have access to bathrooms.
• Commissioner Olvany asked about the size of the concession stand compared to the existing one. Superintendent Lambrecht replied that it is about double the square footage but it allows the addition of indoor cooking equipment and storage.
• Commissioner Olvany stated he loved the open air pavilion and that shade is important these days. He added it might also offer some revenue opportunities. He then asked what the exterior would look like and referenced that he liked the style of the shelter shown in the presentation. Mr. LaLonde replied that the existing building was built with concrete block. They are anticipating using durable materials due to the harsh environment such as cementitious siding materials that look like wood. Commissioner Olvany asked if the costs for those materials were built into the estimate. Mr. LaLonde replied that they were included.
• Commissioner Abbott stated that the sun has become an issue for a lot of people so he concurs with the inclusion of the pavilion. The fireplace will extend its use during the year as well. He asked if there would be lockers in the new beach house washrooms. Staff replied that they are now included but there would be a minimal number of lockers and people would be required to bring their own locks such as is done at the pool.
• Commissioner Abbott asked if the idea of a multi-use room at the beach house had been dropped and staff replied that it was. He also asked what the exterior “style” of the building would be. Mr. LaLonde replied that the idea would be to mimic Lakeview Center in order to have a consistent design scheme.
• Commissioner Abbott asked if the new beach house would be heated. Mr. LaLonde replied that it would be to a certain level but not enough to allow use during the winter.
• Mr. Abbott asked if the fence on the west side of the pavilion could be replaced with gates so that there could be open access during the off- season. Mr. LaLonde replied that there could be gates or the panels could also be removable.
• Commissioner Olvany asked if that meant there could be an extended season for concessions. Staff replied that there could be an opportunity if we could find someone who would want to be open during those times.
• Commissioner Olvany asked if there would be tables between the pavilion and the concessions. Mr. LaLonde replied that you would have to allow for lines for the concessions serving windows but there could be some allowance for tables. There is also a larger patio planned on the north side next to the public washrooms.
Mr. LaLonde gave an overview of the proposed toilet room facility to be located at the north end of the sailing beach which would replace the portable toilets currently used. The location was chosen due to its proximity to water and sanitary sewers on Michigan Avenue. It would be a modest facility.
Deb Mitchell next provided an overview of the road improvements recommended in the Lakeview Center portion of the park. She stated that the current traffic patterns are sometimes confusing due to cross connections between the Upper Drive and the tennis courts. She also understands the need to have it available for special events. The plan would include a continuous walk that goes from the Lakefront walkway past tennis and out to the Washington and Michigan Avenue intersection. They are recommending relocating the “exit” drive to be farther away from the top of Wallace Bowl in order to eliminate the headlights from glaring into the amphitheatre during performances. The exact placement is yet to be determined but for discussion purposes it is shown to be moved about one-half of the road width.
• Commissioner Olvany asked about bicycle traffic. Ms. Mitchell pointed out the bike lane and stated it does work its way from the south entrance to the Washington exit on the road as a painted lane.
Ms. Mitchell highlighted the changes to the traffic pattern in front of Lakeview Center. The parking area is eliminated and the handicapped parking is moved to the lower level which works with the addition of the elevator in the facility. There would also be a drop-off area cut into the side of the road.
• Commissioner Benz asked about the “circle” shown in the design. Ms. Mitchell explained the walks would be reworked and the flag pole would be relocated in front of Lakeview. The area would be re-landscaped and the pedestrian traffic flow would be improved.
Ms. Mitchell gave an overview of improvements proposed for the Wildflower Garden. A new wider path would connect to the top of Wallace Bowl and a “paver” type of surface would be recommended. The garden would be cleaned and the paths improved and some added.
• Commissioner Abbott asked about the existing “triangle” and if it would stay. Ms. Mitchell replied that it would. He also asked why the road would be moved away from Wallace Bowl. Ms. Mitchell replied that it was to cut down on the headlights that shine into the seating during performances.
Mr. LaLonde gave an overview of the various alternatives for Lakeview Center improvements based on the Park Board’s direction. In all cases, a new addition is added at the north end to include an elevator to provide for ADA access from the primary parking area and reconfigured lobbies with air locks for energy conservation purposes.
Option 1 – Increases the seating capacity to 200 people at round tables of eight. This would be done within the current building footprint. The upper level would be cleared out and walls removed. There would be an addition to the south to include a better catering kitchen and storage for tables and chairs. The new main entrance would now be on the lower level. Offices would be moved downstairs and the concession stand would be eliminated.
• Commissioner Abbott asked about the kitchen. Staff replied that the existing kitchen is very undersized for even our current operation.
• Commissioner Olvany asked about the idea of moving staff offices downstairs. Staff replied that it would provide them with a better view of the beach operation. He also asked if washrooms would remain on the lower level. Staff replied that they would remain the same and would become the primary public washrooms for the park.
• Commissioner Olvany asked what the dressing room was for. Mr. LaLonde replied that it is used as a “green room” for performers in the Wallace Bowl shows.
• Commissioner Olvany asked if there was any provision for a warming area in this plan for winter activities. The consultants replied that they are proposing a fire pit outside the lower level of the facility.
Option 2 – This plan would move the south wall farther south. The multi-use room capacity in this plan is 160. It could be divided into one larger and one smaller room for multiple rentals. The offices are once again moved to the lower level. The existing front programming room remains. The office space becomes the catering kitchen and storage area. The lower level is the same as Option 1 except the lower level could be expanded further south.
• Commissioner Olvany asked if there were any particular benefits in Option 2 compared to Option 1. Mr. LaLonde replied that the upper level maintains a better core traffic flow. The costs between 1 and 2 are similar in nature.
Option 3 – This plan once again expands the building farther south but also moves the east wall. The front multi-use room once again remains as does one office and a reception area. The catering kitchen and storage are in the expanded area. The large room would have partitions so you could divide it into three smaller rooms that would all have water views. The nice thing about this plan is you could pick up a multi-use room on the lower level which would be great for camps. One office would also be moved downstairs.
Ms. Mitchell gave an overview of possible winter activity areas as follows:
1) A sled hill could be located at the old beach entrance now being repurposed as a pedestrian access to the beach. Since an accessible ramp would be located here, that could be used for returning to the top of the hill.
2) An outdoor fire pit could be added east of Lakeview Center. It would be at an area that could be supervised and it is also in close proximity to washrooms.
3) The ice rink would remain in the same location as before.
4) A cross country skiing path could be groomed in the “boot”
• Commissioner Abbott asked if the trails had to be limited to that area. Kris Lucius from SmithGroupJJR responded that there is an issue with trying to cross the roads since they are plowed during the winter.
• Commissioner Abbott asked why the ice skating wasn’t moved to the Wallace Bowl. Staff replied that there are issues with flooding in the area on top of the irrigation system. There are also problems with sand drifting in and getting frozen into the ice. That was especially true when the rink was in the beach parking lot.
Ms. Mitchell gave an overview of a possible new “pier” that could be built just north of the existing structure which could not be removed without jeopardizing the aquatics and dog beach areas that are man-made areas. The proposal would utilize bin wall construction which is less expensive than alternatives. The design would allow it to be accessible for all people to stroll or fish. Once constructed, the current structure could be removed.
• Commissioner Benz stated that if at all possible, some cooperation would be needed with the MWRD and the Wilmette Harbor Association to remove the old structure.
• Commissioner Abbott asked why it would be removed. Ms. Mitchell replied that some material could be used to armor the new structure. Director Wilson added that the Harbor Association had stated they might be able to use some of the material to reinforce the harbor mouth. Commissioner Abbott stated he thought the picture shown was too stark. Ms. Mitchell stated that it was used just as an example as are many of the pictures. A final design would not necessarily look the same.
Ms. Mitchell next reviewed the recommended Recreation Improvements to the park.
A. There would be improvements to the dog beach including better access control a possible fresh water fountain for dogs and their owners.
B. The tot lot would be replaced with a new design to bring it up to current codes for accessibility and Consumer Product Safety Commission Guidelines.
C. There would be across-the-board improvements to picnic areas. All areas also need to have accessible routes. Areas 1 and 2 would receive new tables and grills. Some, a minimum of 20%, or all of these features in all areas would be accessible units. The surface underneath would be hard paved to make them accessible and eliminate the wear spots and mud holes that are typical due to the amount of use they receive. It was suggested that improvements for Areas 3 and 4 include shelters. Areas 5 and 6 already have a shelter but still need to be upgraded for equipment and access.
• Commissioner Benz asked if there are options in the design of accessible tables. Ms. Mitchell replied there are a wide variety of designs and materials.
• Commissioner Olvany asked if there were shelters included in Areas 3 and 4. Ms. Mitchell replied they were.
• Commissioner Abbott asked what improvements are anticipated for the dog beach. Ms. Mitchell replied that there were requests for water and gate improvements. Currently, the plan just includes an “allowance” to make various upgrades.
• Commissioner Olvany asked how many areas there are in the park. Staff replied there are five. Commissioner Olvany suggested that the Park District provide a layout to the consultants to include as a reference in their plan.
• Commissioner Abbott asked if the other shelters included fireplaces. Ms. Mitchell stated they did not but they could be added.
Ms. Mitchell began with an overview of the proposed landscape improvements.
A. A new “bluff” walk would be constructed as part of the circulation work. The vegetation on the bluff would have to be cleared, like Langdon has been, to allow for good views of the lake. With the parking lot improvements, the views would only get better.
B. The Wildflower Garden needs some clean up and a return to a true wildflower plant environment. It is a special place and could be improved greatly. There is an invasion of daylilies that needs to be removed and thought could be given to an annual burn to promote healthier plants and to help spread the seeds. As stated before, a new central path with a surface of pavers would be a connection point to the park circulation system. There should be some fencing changes to limit access in some spots and some upgraded interpretive signage is suggested. The council ring could be upgraded to provide a quiet place for offering nature programs or just sitting and contemplating the surroundings. Some expansion of the paths would help move people into other areas of the garden.
C. The West Harbor Walk was included as requested by the Park Board but since it is not under Park District control, no time was spent on it.
D. The Harbor Garden Walk east of the Coast Guard Station is another pleasant reclusive area. The walkway needs to be upgraded and made accessible. There are steps along the way and it is paved in some areas and in other areas there is mulch. The landscaping needs some improvement as well and the council ring needs attention.
E. A Landscape Master Plan needs to be developed to identify the various “zones’ within the site. They are:
a. A Composed Landscape with formalized planting areas.
b. The Upland plantings which are located in the upper part of the park visible from Michigan Avenue.
c. Maintained landscapes which are more formally maintained for athletic fields or other uses.
d. The dunes which are along the lake shore were all planted with dune grasses by the Park District.
e. The bluff areas which are in the area north of the Wallace Bowl up to Lake Avenue and along the west end of the Sailing Beach.
f. The natural landscape with low maintenance so that it can have a more “rustic” appearance.
F. The purpose of the Landscape Master Plan is to help shape these areas. Some suggestions would be to add accent plantings under tree canopies. A plant list would also be developed for each area. As stated before the bluff area would be cleared of all plantings to allow a better view of the beach and lake.
• Commissioner Olvany asked if the plan included any landscaping costs. Ms. Mitchell replied that the idea is to provide the Park District with a document to work on over a period of time and then do the work as time allows.
G. A formalized memorial program should be created to develop a consistent approach, create a suitable plant list and locations where the plants can be used as well as a fee schedule for the type of donation. The process should be more formalized. There should also be a discussion about the limits of obligations to the donors.
• Commissioner Olvany asked about the plaques and memorials. Ms. Mitchell replied that during their research of policies, they found a wide gamut of choices and costs.
H. The last part of the landscape plan is to make sure that the myriad of accessibility issues are dealt with on the site.
Ms. Mitchell began the presentation for Langdon Park. The topics addressed were as follows:
1) Restroom and beach access
2) Tot Lot replacement
3) Landscape Master Plan
1) Mr. LaLonde began the presentation on the beach access. Langdon does not have to be ADA accessible if the beach at Gillson is designated as the accessible beach. A set of stairs would be added next to the sloped drive to facilitate safer access to the beach when the drive is wet or icy. The new restroom would be built down the slope but not at beach level. It should not be lower than the “landing” where the existing “shack” is located. The upper level of the building would provide an observation area that could include benches and/or picnic tables. It would be similar in concept to Lighthouse Beach in Evanston. The lower level would include small washrooms plus staff and first aid areas and limited storage. Mr. LaLonde showed the cross section of the building with the ramp marked on the side of the building. Once this building is completed, the other structure could be eliminated.
• Commissioner Olvany stated that he does not like the observation area. Mr. LaLonde replied that the pictures shown were examples of how a building like this could work and were not design-specific to Langdon. The Langdon design would not look industrial at all. There is also a wide range of railing designs that could be discussed and the elevation of the observation area would be below the park elevation.
2) Ms. Mitchell gave an overview of the tot lot replacement that has been deferred for years because of the progress of the master plan. The new area would follow all ADA and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) guidelines.
3) Ms. Mitchell gave an overview of the Landscape Master Plan and the areas were similar to those in Gillson. The upland areas are visible from Sheridan Road. The bluff area has already been cleared very well. And finally the dunes which are at the beach elevation. The landscape plan would include a more attractive entrance area. Screening would be added to screen the view to the surrounding buildings. The bluff would be enhanced with some undergrowth plantings. Some discussion should be given to the drive through the park to the beach. Superintendent Lambrecht noted that because of the park being along Sheridan Road it is helpful to have an area to pull a truck in when work needs to be done. The Fire Department has also used the access in emergency situations. He added that a different type of surface could be evaluated such as grass pavers.
The Committee had some preliminary discussions of the costs in general.
• In regards to Gillson Park, Commissioner Abbott stated that he believes the storm sewers need to be done and the roads are needed. The beach house is okay but he can’t justify the Lakeview improvements at this time. He is also not sure about the pier replacement. He asked if the costs could be broken down further for a better evaluation.
• Commissioner Olvany stated that the plans presented were exactly what were asked for. The Park Board has the opportunity to use an “a la carte” approach to the project he thinks this can be a long-range plan. It is truly what the Park District can afford and he is anxious to hear comments from the community.
Commissioner Benz thanked the consultant for their presentations. He stated they were well done and the Committee received a lot of information for this first run-through. He encouraged Committee members to get any questions to staff so that they can get answered. He then asked if the people in attendance had any questions.
Mary Shea asked why there was no mention of the maintenance building at the north end of the park since she does not see the necessity for it to be in the park. She was also told that it was a temporary structure and that everything stored there could be stored in other buildings.
Beth Beucher stated she believes the pedestrian access at Lake Avenue could be enhanced by improving the existing stairs and making more people aware of them. Ms. Mitchell noted that part of the problem is that you still need an access for people on bikes or with strollers or special needs.
Fred Fitzsimmons stated that he appreciated the various alternatives but was disappointed that none of them included a second floor on the beach house. If included, it could offer a better venue for weddings or a restaurant which would be a real revenue generator. There could also be a deck facing the lake which would provide a year-round activity center. In addition, maybe a basement would be a possibility. He added that you could eliminate the open air shelter to add a second floor deck to the beach house. He also noted that the concession area should have a large screened in area so that people would be out of the sun and away from bees and birds. He also stated that the concession at Lakeview has not been successful because the concessionaire didn’t have enough inventory and people couldn’t get food. He also said he has been told that the concessionaire controls their own hours and that the Park District has given them no direction. He went on to state he understands the addition to Lakeview for the elevator and the addition to provide a larger multi-use room, but he still believes the second floor on the beach house offers better views and could bring in more revenue.
Robin Baugher suggested that it would be good if there were some elevations of the various buildings for people to see along with some different perspectives.
Fred Fitzsimmons asked if any renderings had been completed yet. Staff replied that they had not because this is the first go-around and it was not the intent to make it look like the Park District had made all the decisions.
Commissioner Benz thanked those in attendance and stated that the next steps for the Committee are to develop a plan for the two workshops to present the plans to the public. He plans on making a report to the Park Board at the November meeting. Once the workshops are held they will have a chance to flush out the choices and modify the plan as needed.
6) Old Business: None
7) New Business: None.
8) There being no further discussion, the meeting was adjourned at 9:10 pm.
Minutes taken by Bill Lambrecht
MINUTES APPROVED ON DECEMBER 2, 2013.