The Path Forward

D65 mural

The picture above is of a large mural on the wall of the Joseph E. Hill Center, Distric 65’s headquarters building. It represents our vision for the Lighthouse Beach and Park: Restoring the beach, park and dunes to their natural states.  That will open vistas to the Lighthouse and Lake Michigan.  And, it will require minimal maintenance in perpetuity.

We are a group of volunteers representing all wards, ages, and socioeconomic groups in Evanston. We honor the lakefront as the place where the community, nature and history come together, a place where all of us can gather to learn, play and celebrate.  Just as depicted in the mural.

We have offered to help defray the costs of this City-run restoration project.

On Tuesday night, May 29th we presented The Evanston City Council with a gift from these citizens- an opportunity to restore the natural dunes, beach and parkland as part of a new public space with the iconic Grosse Point Lighthouse, a national historic landmark, as its centerpiece.

This is a spot with astonishing natural beauty and great historical significance that predates even the Lighthouse itself.

In her book published in 1928, Evanston, Its Land and Beginnings, historian Viola Crouch Reeling described how Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet disembarked at Lighthouse Landing. She wrote:

“Never getting far from land, but hugging the shore of this lake with their canoes, the travelers, no doubt, gazed with admiration on the lofty oaks, tamaracks and other varieties of trees that dotted the length of Evanston’s holdings of today….as the men swung their canoes around the point where the lighthouse stands, the artist soul of Joliet and Marquette’s keen eye must have delighted in the beauty of that point, a point so beautiful that it gained the name from sailors in a later day of ‘Beauty’s Eyebrow.’”

She is describing the Grosse Point Lighthouse- site on the City’s treasured lakefront. It is quite an image for us to reflect on today.

In The Grosse Point Lighthouse, by Donald J. Terras in 1995, the author writes that, “Father Marquette paddled south along the western shore of Lake Michigan on his second voyage to the Chicago region. He was accompanied by two French companions and a band of Potawatomi and Illinois Indians…On December 3, Marquette made an entry in his diary indicating that the party was besieged by fog and was ‘compelled to make a point and land.’ Marquette’s map of the region…. strongly indicates that this famous wilderness pioneer camped on Grosse Point the night of December 3, 1674.

Recognizing centuries-old significance of this site, we realize that we have a opportunity to make it come alive again today and to broaden the appeal of this space for all of Evanston. Our vision is to restore the dunes to their natural state, to deconstruct the house and coach house and to utilize the two recently-renovated fog houses as environmental labs and classrooms for Evanston children.

The mansion and coach house now obstruct both the lake and lighthouse from public view. We envision restoring key elements of Jens Jensen’s historic 1920’s garden and integrating them into the natural landscape while clearing and expanding the parkland and beach for the free enjoyment of all members of our City.

The primary goal of the City’s Lakefront Master Plan, which the Council unanimously approved in 2008, is to preserve and enhance the lakefront’s natural environment. Our plan is completely consistent with the community’s consensus vision for Evanston and our most precious natural resource.

We are ready to move forward. Our gift has been secured through the generous contributions of numerous residents- no additional fundraising is required. No liability issues will persist and no prolonged construction period will be needed.  We are eager to meet with the city to finalize details so that we can move ahead.

We hope you share our vision and will act favorably on our offer. The future of this park and its dunes and beach have been debated for the last seven years.  It is time for a new vision. We look forward to working with you and the city’s garden and green space groups on what we think will be a wonderful project for Evanston.

Naturalization

We believe it is possible to allow more citizens to visit and enjoy the dunes and parkland- and eliminate any future financial risk to the City.


The vision proposed here is to recover the natural landscape of the Harley Clarke Estate as a living laboratory that enhances Lighthouse Landing Park- resulting into an expanded green space for the City of Evanston.

The landscape would be restored and invasive species would be removed from the dunes.  We are hopeful that “phase II” of this plan could be collaborative and community driven in focus.  Involvement from the Garden Club,  ETHS Green Team, Evanston Environmental Association and others could offer addition expertise and guidance for the restoration and naturalization of the dunes.

Benefits of the plan:

  • free, inclusive environment for all residents
  • enhancement of the visual impact of the Grosse Point Lighthouse, a historic and iconic symbol of Evanston
  • expansion of the natural ecosystem that increases habitat for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife
  • partnership with existing Ecology Center programming to use the recently renovated fog houses as educational spaces and laboratories for community-wide educational offerings
  • a 20% increase in parking, while still decreasing existing blacktop, reducing the carbon footprint and returning the land to as it looked when the Lighthouse was built