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Park Avenue Boating Beach Breakwater/Barge Project

Project Background

High lake levels accompanied by intense storms over the past few years, especially this past winter, have caused damage to the breakwater wall/barge located at the Park Avenue Boating Beach. The Park District of Highland Park and our engineering consultant had been monitoring the condition of the barge in past years. The significant damage that was sustained last winter was unanticipated and worse than past winters. These extreme weather conditions have affected communities all along the Illinois Lake Michigan shoreline.  

While the Park District current plans are to continue all operations at Park Avenue in 2020, the future of boating at Park Avenue is contingent upon third party funding for the barge repair or replacement, an agreement with the North Shore Yacht Club , a lease agreement with the City of Highland Park, and the ability to provide programs and services safely amidst Lake Michigan water levels and weather-related conditions. 

To seek feasible options that provide long-term access to boating activities at Park Avenue Boating Facility, the Park District has formed a Park Avenue Working Group. The Group consists of Park District Staff and Board, Highland Park City Staff and Council, North Shore Yacht Club Members, and resident boaters.

Consistent with the Park District’s Mission and Board-approved policies, the Park Avenue Working Group is working with our coastal engineer to seek fiscally responsible site improvements that provide long term access to boating activities at Park Avenue Boating Facility.The Park Avenue Working Group’s objectives are to:

For more information on the project, e-mail Jeff Smith, Director of Planning and Projects at jsmith@pdhp.org.

Park District Planning

The Park District is committed to providing extraordinary recreational programs and services to the Highland Park community in a manner that is consistent with its mission, vision, values, and operational policies.  With over 800 acres of property that includes 45 parks, 24 playgrounds, four beaches, 12 acres of trails, 200 acres of natural area, nine facilities, and over 3,000 annual programs that serve the community, careful and responsible planning is a priority.  The Park District consistently evaluates the development, delivery, and operational expenses that support our programs, services, facilities, parks, and playgrounds.  Our hope is to serve all unique community needs. 

However, since District resources are not unlimited, we must often prioritize the programs and services that meet the needs of the largest, most diverse population, based on the current attitudes and interests of the community.  To do so, the Park District conducts a community-wide attitude and interest survey. The results of this survey, along with internal usage reports, help provide a basis for program offerings and capital projects that support the development, improvement, repair or replacement of facilities, parks, and equipment.  For more information on the Park District’s attitude and interest survey, annual budget, capital plan, and Master Plan (GreenPrint 2024), please click on the related links below. 

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.  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, building, and concrete boat launch are located.  The barge, owned by the Park District, is located adjacent to the south property.  The site is also home to the Highland Park Water Treatment Plant, which provides safe drinking water to Highland Park and surrounding communities.   

The Park District has operated the Park Avenue concrete boat ramp and decommissioned barge since they were installed by the Park District in 1981.  Over the past five years, an average of 56 power boaters, and 56 non-power boaters including their family members and guests have enjoyed 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. 

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.  Consistent with Park District Policy, these benefits are available to the entire community and are critical to the Park District’s Mission.  The land owned by the Park District at the north end of Park Avenue, like all the parks and natural areas, is managed by the Park District and subsidized through taxation because it protects and conserves open space and promotes physical and mental well-being of our residents.

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.

Boating Season

To ensure the safety of our boaters, the Park District installed concrete barriers to restrict access to the breakwater wall/barge. The barriers have reduced the boat launch from two lanes to one lane. Boats will now enter and exit the lake from a single lane. A picture which shows the newly installed barriers and impact to the boat launch is to the the right. Pedestrian access to the barge deck has also been restricted. Throughout the season the Park District will work with the City of Highland Park Police Department to manage the boat launch traffic flow. During weekends,  our staff will continue to manage the boat launch and trailer process for our boaters. To effectively and safely manage boats coming in and out of the lake, we ask for your patience while our staff directs and assists you with your boat.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the boating season, please contact Mitch Carr,  Director of Recreation and Facilities at 847.579.3105, mcarr@pdhp.org.


Project Updates

3/3/20 – Last week, Park District staff met with representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA).   Both agencies were accessing damage to the south parking lot from the January 10 and 11 storm for possible federal funding to help with the repair of the lot.  

1/29/20 – SmithGroup presented additional options for the repair or replacement of the barge/breakwater including a Trapbag Cofferdam with Walkway and an H Pile adaptive wall.  After extensive discussion, the Working Group recommended that the only options considered going forward should include removal of the current barge, and replacement with a new structure.  The Park Avenue Working Group identified two of the options as viable including:  Option #3 Cellular Sheet pile and Option #7 Rubble Breakwater with Pre-Cast Walkway.  Park District staff will discuss the two options to refine costs and begin working on funding models to be shared with the Park District Finance Committee.  The Working Group will reconvene in March. 

1/14/20–  SmithGroup presented an overview on lake levels and the effects to the beach if the barge were completely removed.  In addition, the following barge repair/replacement options were presented to the Park Avenue Working Group:

1. Barge Repair Encapsulation:
The barge would be cut down and encapsulated with sheet pile. However, the length of the barge cannot be extended nor is there a pedestrian walking surface. 65-70 year lifespan.

2. Barge Replacement In-Kind: 
The barge would be removed and replaced in-kind. This option includes a pedestrian walking surface, however,  the length of the barge cannot be extended. 28-34 year lifespan.

3. Cellular Sheetpile:
The barge would be removed and replaced with a cellular sheet pile. The sheet pile can be adjusted to any width or length, which increases the project costs, but provides flexibility.  Low cost maintenance would be required every 10-15 years.  A floating dock is included with this option.  A cantilever dock is an alternative option. 65-70 year lifespan. 

4. Rubble Fill & H-Piles:
The current barge would remain, H-Piles installed for support, the cargo box will be filled with rubble. 20-25 year lifespan. 

5. Rubble Breakwater with Sheetpile:
The barge would be removed, a sheet pile would be driven and surrounded with rubble breakwater. A floating dock can be attached for an additional cost. 50 year lifespan. 

6. Rubble Breakwater with Raised Core:
 The barge would be removed and replaced with a breakwater. A floating dock can be attached for an additional cost. 50 year lifespan 

7. Rubble Breakwater with Pre-Cast Walkway:
The barge would be removed and a breakwater would be built around a pre-cast narrow pedestrian walking surface.  High cost optional items are an H-Pile with an attached floating dock and the pier or groin can be widened.  Low cost infrequent maintenance would be required.  50 year lifespan.

8. Cantilevered Sheetpile Wall:
The barge would be removed and replaced with a sheet pile wall and stiffeners. The wall would block the view of the lake from certain points of the beach when the lake levels are low.  65-70 year lifespan.

9. H-Pile Adaptive Panel Wall:
H-Piles would be installed behind the current barge to extend its life. This project can be completed in two phases to maximize the life of the current barge and reduce upfront costs. Once the barge is completely removed a floating dock can be attached for an added cost, but this will reduce the launch to a single lane. There are potential high costs for ongoing maintenance, because the panels can break easily during severe storms. 50 years beyond residual barge. 

10. Trapbag Barrier Wall:
A leveling base material and trapbags filled with tremie concrete would be placed inside the cargo box of the barge. Tremie concrete is $300 per cubic area and requires special equipment to place the trapbags into the cargo box, so this  increases the costs of the project. The residual life of the barge is dependent on the stability of the trapbags.  Lifespan based on residual life of barge. 

12/16/19 – The Park Avenue Working Group identified its goals and objectives:

Park District staff was directed to work with Smith Group to develop conceptual design options for barge repair or replacement. 

11/18/19 – On Wednesday, November 13, the Park District of Highland Park invited Park Avenue powerboat launch pass holders to a meeting, at which an update was provided on the current status of boat launching via the concrete ramp at the Park Avenue Boating Facility.   Park District staff indicated that the barge, which acts as a breakwater for the concrete boat launch, has met its useful structural life and needs repair or replacement.  The costs associated with a repair or replacement of the barge is estimated to range between $550,000 – $1.6 Million.  The Park District is seeking third party funding for this project and asked the boaters to share their feedback.  Currently, the Park District plans to operate all facilities at Park Avenue Boating Facility in 2020.  However, numerous factors will play a role in the future of boating at Park Avenue. 

4/3/19

Staff provided a recommendation for the repair or replacement of the barge breakwater structure at the October 23 Board Meeting. The Board asked that Staff go back to SmithGroup to discuss additional options.

At the March 12 Board Workshop Meeting, SmithGroup presented on the options developed for the repair or replacement of the barge breakwater structure, including four additional options. The Board directed Staff to review the options presented and prepare an economic analysis based on usage costs, fees and the various costs involved and report back to the Board.

A summary of the options is below:

Barge Repair-
6-8 months permit process, 8-10 week construction. Cost: $1,588,100 (65-70 year service life)

Barge Replacement-
12+ months permit process, 12-14 week construction. Cost: $1,337,350 (28-34 year service life)

Cellular Sheetpile-
6-8 months permit process, 12-14 week construction. Cost: $1,389,620 (65-70 year service life)

Rubble Fill w/ H-Piles-
3-4 months permit process, 6-9 week construction. Cost: $555,770 (20+ year service life)

Rubble Breakwater w/ Sheetpile-
8-10 months permit process, 10-12 week construction. Cost: $848,950 (~50 service life)

Rubble Breakwater w/ Raised Core-
9-11 months permit process, 12-14 week construction. Cost: $918,550 (~50 year service life)

Rubble Breakwater w/ Precast Walkway-
8-10 months permit process, 12-14 week construction. Cost: $827,500 (~50 year service life)

Cantilevered Sheetpile Wall-
3-4 months permit process, 6-8 week construction. Cost: $1,136,750 (65-70 year service life)

 

10/19/18 Update

At the October 16 Board Workshop meeting,  SmithGroup JJR presented its findings and four design concepts for the repair or replacement of the barge at Park Avenue.  As part of their work, SmithGroup JJR was asked to explore a variety of solutions, including repair of the existing barge breakwater, removal and replacement of the barge breakwater, and removal of the barge breakwater and replacement with an alternate breakwater structure. Each concept was examined for ease of design and construction, permitting requirements, service life, and cost. A summary of the concepts is below:

Barge Repair – 6-8 month permit process, 8-10 week construction. Cost: $1,588,100  (65-70 year service life)
Barge Replacement – 12+ month permit process,  12-14 week construction. Cost:  $1,337,350   (28-34 year service life)
Cellular Sheetpile –  6-8 month permit process, 12-14 week construction. Cost: $1,389,620 (65-70 year service life)
Rubble Fill w/ H-Piles – 3-4 month permit process,  6-9 week construction. Cost:  $555,770 (20-22 year service life)

A staff recommendation will be presented to the Board for approval at the October 23 Board Meeting.

6/26/18 Update

The Board approved the staff recommendation to engage SmithGroup JJR to explore a variety of solutions, including repair of the existing barge breakwater, removal and replacement of the barge breakwater, and removal of the barge breakwater and replacement with an alternate breakwater structure. SmithGroupJJR will also consider need for any temporary repairs. At the completion of this study, staff will present options to the Park Board which will include estimated cost, project timeline and required permitting. A determination will then be made on how to proceed with the project. 

5/22/18 Update

A discussion on the Park Avenue barge will take place at the June 12 Park Board meeting. A recommendation for selection of an engineering firm will be presented for approval at the June 26 Park Board meeting.