The Chicago Park District will repair Juneway, Howard and Rogers Beach parks this summer due to damage from winter storms and high water levels in Lake Michigan, according to an announcement on Chicago’s 49th Ward website from Alderman Joe Moore.
High water levels from this past winter have caused shoreline retaining walls to crumble, with parts of the walls becoming dislodged and falling into the water. Additionally, several sinkholes have opened up along the lakefront.
Shane Lishawa, a research associate and faculty member in the Institute of Environmental Sustainability (IES) at Loyola, said the amount of precipitation over Lake Michigan, amount of days the lake freezes and air and water temperatures all contribute to the fluctuation of water levels.
“When it gets cold enough for the lakes to freeze, then that significantly reduces the amount of evaporative water loss out of the lakes themselves,” Lishawa said. “Similarly, when you have colder winters, the air temperature and the water temperature will stay cooler over the next summer, which can have an influence on the amount of evaporation. Cooler summer and fall temperatures are going to lead to less evaporation.”
However, Lishawa said the current high water levels seen in Lake Michigan are normal when looking at water level patterns from the past 100 years.
“There have been at least eight periods over the last 100 years where the water levels in the Great Lakes — in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron specifically — have been higher than where they are now,” Lishawa said. “In addition to those eight events, there have also been two other periods when the water levels were at or very near to where they are now.”
While not a perfect cycle, the water levels are at similar levels almost every ten years.
“It doesn’t happen every ten years, but if you think about it, over a hundred years there’s been roughly ten events, so it’s almost a decade old occurance of this level of water in the lakes,” Lishawa said.
The announcement said Howard Beach Park, located a few blocks east of the Howard Red Line stop at 7519 N. Eastlake Terrace, is set to begin repairs by the end of May. Construction crews will remove and replace concrete blocks, including leveling and filling, install new concrete stairs, sidewalks and support walls and restore the landscape as needed, according to the announcement. Construction is scheduled to be finished by July 31.
The announcement also said Juneway Beach Park, adjacent to the Calvary cemetery at 7751 N. Eastlake Terrace, will begin to undergo repairs along the same time frame. Repairs will include the replacement of damaged concrete along the lake edge, installation of a new sidewalk, filling concrete between the existing concrete blocks and landscape restoration. Construction is expected to conclude by July 15.
Rogers Beach Park, located next to Juneway Beach Park at 7705 N. Eastlake Terrace, will also begin construction by the end of May. Restorations will include filling voids with stone and/or concrete material. Construction is expected to be finished by June 15, according to the announcement.
In the announcement, Moore said the City and Park District are discussing additional ways to protect the North Side with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There’s been discussion of potential installation of rock piles in the lake. The rock piles help to prevent erosion caused by intense waves. He said rock piles were installed at the end of Fargo and Jarvis streets when water levels were similarly high 30 years ago.
Moore said he has firsthand experience with the changing water levels in the Lake Michigan because he lives on the lakefront. However, he said the Rogers Park community was active in joining him to ask the Park District to make the repairs.
“I am gratified that the Park District is undertaking the repairs. Our lakefront, particularly at the northern end of Rogers Park, took quite a beating this winter due to several intense storms and high water levels, so these are much needed repairs,” Moore said. “They will help to ensure the safety of the Lakefront so that beach goers and picnickers can enjoy our beautiful lakefront safely this summer.”