Project Overview


The Wilmette Park District has initiated a comprehensive process to continue improvements at Gillson Park, a community park that spans 60 acres of prime parkland along the Lake Michigan shoreline. One of Wilmette's historic assets, Gillson Park offers park, leisure, recreation and beach amenities within a singular landscape. WPD has engaged a team led by The Lakota Group to develop a compelling, and realistically achievable, vision for this community treasure.

The overall process will refine and build upon former strong planning and design initiatives, which culminated in the artfully designed and integrated new Gillson Beach House Facility. The ultimate goal is to consolidate a cohesive vision for this park along Wilmette's lakefront, and develop a comprehensive plan that outlines an achievable and sustainable future for the Park and the Wilmette Park District.


This planning process is guided by eight fundamental principles that ensure the community's best interest. These principles include:

  1. Safety and security
  2. Improve / enhance / maintain the natural environment
  3. Improve / enhance / maintain facilities programming and operations
  4. Green and sustainable practice
  5. Improved accessibility
  6. Efficient infrastructure
  7. Durability and maintenance
  8. Fiscal responsibility

The Gillson Comprehensive Plan is focused on six major key themes.


The Gillson Park Comprehensive Plan will be organized into three planning phases:


Working closely with the Wilmette Park District and the community, the planning process focused on identifying desired outcomes at the outset. The process began with a review of the existing planning documents and a detailed analysis of the many aspects of the park.

Click Here to view the Existing Conditions Analysis of Gillson Park

Focusing on issues highlighted in the initial walking tour, as well as Park Board and project team observations, the initial analysis provides an in-depth review of conditions in the park. The main objective of this phase is to clarify a collective baseline vision of what is truly great about this public space and identify opportunities for improving the park and visitor experience.


The community engagement process began in February, with a goal to ensure the Park District hears and gathers essential public input. Through numerous stakeholder interviews and focus groups, the process has focused on corroborating initial findings and observations, uncovering overlooked concerns and priorities, and developing support and momentum for eventual proposed refinements to the park.

Key groups to engage have included the public at large, park facility members (sailing, swimming, and dog beaches), community groups with a special connection to the park, residential and institutional neighbors, and land ownership interests including the Village of Wilmette and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

Click Here to view the recordings and presentations of previous stakeholder meetings/open houses.


Distilling research, analysis, site observation and thorough community input, the third phase of the process focuses on delineating key priorities in a series of preliminary park enhancement design concepts. Using a comparative analysis approach, to help derive consensus, a community workshop will focus on vetting design alternatives, refining priorities and honing implementation strategies.

Ultimately, this analytical, interactive and iterative process will create the vision for Gillson Park. This Comprehensive Plan will clearly define park enhancement proposals, sequenced implementation milestones and order of magnitude cost projections for each set of initiatives. The plan will ensure that landscapes, programs and services at Gillson Park work in unison to support the shared ambitions for this well-loved place and provide a road map that will serve the Wilmette Park District and community for decades to come.


Stay tuned to the Wilmette Park District website and social media platforms to know the latest about this effort. Share posts and updates with your neighbors, friends, and family members, and don't forget to comment on posts with questions or thoughts!

Wilmette Park District in collaboration with the Lakota Team will be sharing engagement opportunities throughout the process - we want to hear from you!