Recent storms greatly damaged two Rogers Park beaches — Howard Beach Park and Rogers Beach Park — causing city officials to block off the remaining beach from the lake using rocks and concrete.
Heavy rains and strong winds hit Rogers Park Jan. 10, with waves ranging from 14 to 20 feet above the waterline, The Phoenix reported. This caused further damage to beaches that have already faced heavy erosion over the past few years due to rising lake levels, especially those farther north.
Just a few months ago, crews installed concrete walls and boulders along the shoreline of Juneway Beach in order to protect it from further erosion, The Phoenix reported.
Less restrictive shoreline protection was also planned for Howard and Rogers Beach parks but after the damage caused this weekend, the city decided to fully block off the lake from the remaining beach using gravel and concrete, according to Maria Hadden, the alderwoman of the 49th Ward, which includes Rogers Park.
Hadden said the city originally planned to leave about 30 to 50 feet of lake access at Howard and Rogers Beach parks — meaning concrete would block part of the beach from Lake Michigan but still allow residents to access the water.
However, after the most recent storm, the city determined the waves were too strong to allow any lake access because it would lead to more erosion, Hadden said.
“They really tried to keep public access to the lake,” Hadden said. “But, it’s really a safety issue. Both safety of the residents and of the public property.”
Hadden said the areas aren’t permanently closed and the city expects to “revitalize” them and allow lake access again in the spring, although the rubble is expected to remain along the shoreline for about three to five more years.
Holly Harrison, a 20-year-old history and political science double major at Loyola, said she wonders if there were other ways the city could have protected the beaches.
“It would be interesting to know if there were other alternatives they could’ve used because the beach is a great place for everyone to go when it’s warm out,” Harrison said.
Elizabeth Cousineau, a Loyola senior studying biology, said she’s glad the barriers were put in place in order to stop erosion.
“I think it’s good that they’re trying to protect the city because I know flooding can hurt people’s land or cars, but it’s not ideal that we’re losing public beach space,” Cousineau, 22, said.