The Path Forward

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Restoring the beach, park and dunes to their natural states is the only fiscally responsible solution.  Open vistas of the Lighthouse and Lake Michigan benefit us all and require minimal maintenance in the future

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 cover 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 for a new and free 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.

6 Comments on “The Path Forward

  1. I love that painting. It reminds me of visiting the beach when my children were young and they would run through the dunes. This idea makes the most sense now, keep it up.

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    • I love the Harley Clarke Mansion when my childten ran into its arms and began creating and ran into its front yard to touch the ever changing art works and running to the backyard to play magical dinosuars and running to the beach to play on the dunes. This isn’t an either or question. We can have both! Together we can build a wonderful, inspiriting cohesive community house! Join in together Dunes folks! Vote No to demolition.

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  2. I commend you all for the work you’ve done on this plan. The community has been divided long enough and people seem to forget that the Lakehouse and Gardens folks were voted down after 1. failing to raise any money 2. failing to fully indemnify the city 3. provide a plan to sustain the operations at the building. Good luck!

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  3. The Harley Clarke mansion is one of the most significant architectural assets in Evanston, and the Midwest. It’s part of our history and should be preserved. Why don’t you work alongside ELHG group and accomplish both preservation and environmental protection. I’m sure the children of Jen Jensen who are working with ELHG would appreciate your support in reestablishing the vision their father had.

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  4. I support this vision. It’s time to move forward, I think if the community group wanting to save Harley Clarke could do it they would have raised the money by now. It sounds like this group has some money already.

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  5. Great plan….how can I donate? This will make the lighthouse the focus of the park, as it was when not was built!

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