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.
Park Avenue Recreational Boating
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.
The Park District works closely with the City of Highland Park and the NSYC providing programs and services to the community. Currently, the Park District and City are meeting to update the presently expired lease agreement that dates back to 1981. The Park District is also in regular communication with the NSYC to update terms associated with their affiliate agreement.
As many residents know, Lake Michigan is experiencing near record-high lake levels that are expected to continue rising in 2020. Additionally, storms with increased wave action have been occurring more frequently. These conditions have created additional challenges at all beachfront locations in Highland Park, as well as across all north shore communities. High lake levels and increased storms put all lakefront activities at risk. Providing safe recreation and leisure activities for our community and Park District users is a top priority.
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 all the aforementioned factors including third party funding for the barge repair or replacement, an agreement with the NSYC, 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.