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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. 

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.

 

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

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 Rob Laue, Manager of Park Avenue Beach at 847.579.4122, rlaue@pdhp.org or Mitch Carr, Assistant Director of Recreation and Facilities at 847.579.3105, mcarr@pdhp.org.


Project Updates

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. 

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Registration for Winter programs going on now! 

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