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Lakefront Planning & Projects

Our lakeshore, bluffs, ravines, and public parks physically define Highland Park. The Park District maintains four lakefront properties that offer public access to this magnificent shoreline: Millard, Moraine, Park Avenue Boating Facility, and Rosewood. Each lakefront property provides a unique mix of ecological, recreational, aesthetic and educational value that is an integral part of the historical, cultural and natural resources of Highland Park.

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In 2007 the Park District completed the first Lakefront Master Plan in collaboration with the City and the community. The Lakefront Master Plan looked at the four lakefront properties individually and holistically. In 2020 the Park District updated the plan based on community input and lakefront activity from 2017 – 2020.

Click here to read through the plan.

In 2020 the Park District was awarded a grant from the Illinois Coastal Management Program to conduct a Beach Management Plan to recommend achievable operations and maintenance strategies to respond to climate change effects at Park District lakefront properties. The Park District worked with coastal engineers and regional experts to develop strategies tailored to each unique property.  The Park Board of Commissioners adopted the plan in April 2021.

The Park District of Highland Park Beach Management Plan is supported by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Management Program through a federal grant from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.

Current and ongoing planning efforts and projects at Park Ave Boating Facility. Click the links below to learn more.

     

Park Avenue Background

Park Avenue Boating Facility provides value to its users, including sailors, paddleboarders, fishermen, powerboaters, and leisure visitors.  The benefits these users receive are consistent with the Park District’s mission “to enrich community life through healthy leisure pursuits and an appreciation of the natural world.” 

Portions of Park Avenue are owned by both the Park District and the City of Highland Park.  The Park District owns the northernmost property, including the boat storage and beach.  Like all the parks and natural areas managed by the Park District, this property is subsidized through taxation because it protects and conserves open space and promotes physical and mental well-being of our residents.  Visiting Park Avenue by bike or by foot, or even taking advantage of the small parking area to the north, are benefits offered to all Highland Park residents.  

The property to the south is owned by the City of Highland Park, which includes the road, parking spaces, and land where the south storage pad, yacht club building, and concrete boat launch are located.  The site is also home to the Highland Park Water Treatment Plant, which provides safe drinking water to Highland Park and surrounding communities.   The barge, owned by the Park District, is located adjacent to the south property.  

The Park District has operated the Park Avenue concrete boat ramp and decommissioned barge since they were installed by the Park District in 1981.  Power boaters and  non-power boaters including their family members and guests enjoy the benefits of boat launching and boat storage at Park Avenue Boating Facility.  Additionally, many enjoy the benefits of kayaking, sailing, paddle boarding, and simply appreciating the natural beauty of Lake Michigan. 

Boat launching and boat storage is also a service provided by the Park District.  Like many recreation programs and services offered through the Park District, these services provide the most benefit to the individual participant. In keeping with Park District Policy, recreation services must be supported by user fees and are expected to exceed the direct operating cost.  User fees support the administration, staffing, annual dredging and maintenance for the barge, concrete boat launch, and beach at Park Avenue.  The Park District works with the North Shore Yacht Club (NSYC) providing small craft boating programs and services to the community. NSYC is an affiliate of the Park District and provides its own leadership and administration.

Learn more about Park Ave Boating

Current and ongoing planning efforts and projects at Rosewood Beach. Click the links below to learn more.

  • Rosewood Beach Shoreline Project
  • Drainage and Grading Improvements

    This project seeks to sustain and improve the ravine path that connects upper Rosewood Park with Rosewood Beach.

    The scope includes installation of a drainage system at the upper park to prevent runoff from upper Rosewood Park and the resulting path washout. Once complete, stormwater falling on the upper park will be collected in a system comprised of storm sewer and drainage structures. The stormwater will flow through the underground system to the ravine stream down below.  The grading improvements are intended to ease the slope of the path at the steepest section to enhance pedestrian access to Rosewood Beach.

    During construction:

    • The ravine path and the north west portions of the upper park will be closed.
    • All other areas within the park and beach and both parking lots will be open throughout the project.
    • To access the beach from the Upper Park (off of Roger Williams) use the bluff stairs at the east side of the parking lot. Signage will be placed at the park.

    This project is scheduled to take place from Mid- April through Mid-May. We appreciate your patience as we work to improve the park.

    Questions? Please contact Mike Evans, Landscape Architect, at mevans@pdhp.org.

Record-setting, heavy rainfall in spring 2019 caused portions of the ravine path leading to beach to fail. For our residents and dog beach pass holders’ safety, the path and access to the dog beach were closed.

In summer 2019, Park District began working with engineering firms, contractors, and the US Army Corps of Engineers to investigate numerous repair approaches and reopen the path and Dog Beach. In early 2020, an engineering firm was hired to develop preliminary site improvement plans. Those plans were presented to the Park Board in August 2020. After careful consideration, the Park Board elected to defer the final design phase to a future year.

Repair of the beach access path is a goal in the Lakefront Master Plan Update. The project’s final design is included in the 2021 Capital Plan, with construction scheduled for 2022. 

 

Project Updates: 

7/29/21 –  On June 8, 2021, the Park District Board of Commissioners approved moving forward with the final design for the project. Staff is currently working with an engineering firm to develop construction documents. Construction of a boardwalk to restore lakefront access is scheduled for 2022.

 

Millard Park and Beach is one of four lakefront properties owned by the Park District and is maintained as a passive natural area with minimal recreation amenities. Access through the park begins along a rustic path that runs across the western portion and middle of the park, passing both through and around a historic garden. Another trail runs along the east edge of the park, along the bluff. All paths unite to a single route along the northern half and lead to a gazebo structure. Overall, the park encompasses about 1,300 linear feet of bluff face ranging in height from 20 to 75 feet above the lake. The beach divides into four sections by sheet pile walls extending 70 to 150 feet long into Lake Michigan.

Over the past few years, storm and wave damage exacerbated by high lake levels have led to slope failures at the toe and top of the bluff. Based on a recommendation from the 2021 Beach Management Plan completed by SmithGroup, staff received Board direction to select a firm to provide a geotechnical study of the bluff and recommendations for future treatment. V3 Companies conducted a Slope Stability Analysis and recommended strategies for ensuring safety and long-term preservation of the bluff in keeping with its natural character and use as a passive park and beach. That report was delivered in July 2021 and presented to the Park Board of Commissioners on August 24, 2021. On September 30, 2021, staff received direction to develop a bid document for recommended remediation. This work may include:

  • Tree removal and management to address hazardous leaning/undermined trees to prevent further damage to the bluff face
  • Restoration of slope grades in targeted areas of the bluff where failure has occurred, plus restoration of those areas with native vegetation
  • Relocation of the existing path and creation of a buffer of native plantings to protect the bluff edge

Work is anticipated to begin in winter 2021-2022. Relocation of the path by Park District crews is expected to start in December 2021.

Project Updates

11/30/21 – A Joint Application to the US Army Corps of Engineers to permit access to the beach has been submitted as planning for work to stabilize the bluff continues.

11/8/21 – Staff met on-site with V3 Companies and City staff to plan a detailed topo survey of the bluff face and tree inventory.

9/30/21 – At the Parks and Natural Areas Committee Meeting, staff presented the Millard Park project plan for 2021 and 2022 based on the bluff stabilization report by V3. Recommendations include bluff trail relocation and grading, tree removal and slope grading on the bluff, seeding and planting, repair of the concrete seawall on the beach, and ongoing monitoring. The total cost for these projects is estimated to be $313,500. The Committee provided consensus to enter into an agreement with V3 for engineering, design, survey, and permitting in the amount of $24,300. 

8/24/21 – Slope Stability Analysis presented to the Park Board by Greg Wolterstorff, V3 Companies.

7/2/21V3 Slope Stability Analysis Report received.

Questions? Please contact Dan Voss, Director of Parks, at dvoss@pdhp.org.