Committee votes down recommending marina study

Breanne Gilpatrick

The Evanston Human Services Committee unanimously recommended Monday night to terminate study of a possible marina in southeast Evanston.

The recommendation will go in front of the Evanston City Council for discussion at the Oct. 25 meeting.

Last spring the council asked the committee to recommend whether the city should invest more time and money in studying the possibility of a marina along Evanston’s lakefront.

Residents packed the city council chambers for the marina discussion. More than half of them arrived wearing name tags for the Evanston organization Citizens for Lakefront Preservation, which opposes the construction of a marina in Evanston because of health, traffic, environmental and lakefront accessibility issues.

Most residents declined to speak when all five aldermen on the committee expressed opposition to the marina.

Jack Darin, a member of the Illinois Sierra Club, said he thought the committee’s vote was the right choice for residents because the lakefront is the city’s most precious resource.

But most of the committee members’ concerns were driven by financial rather than environmental considerations. If plans for the marina were to move forward, the city might then need to conduct a feasibility study, which would cost about $400,000.

Ald. Edmund Moran (6th) was the only alderman to speak in favor of a marina. Although not a member of the Human Services Committee, Moran presented potential plans and talked about the marina’s benefits.

“What I would like to urge people to do is think on a lot broader scale, to think what this would mean for the city of Evanston and to give consideration to its beauty, to its recreational uses … (it’s) really sort of a smashing addition to our lakefront,” he said.

But committee member Ald. Arthur Newman (1st) said the city simply does not have the money for such a project, especially considering needed improvements at the Robert Crown Center. The city currently is discussing renovations for the recreation center at 1701 Main St.

“While the Crown Center is falling down, just to go down this with $400,000 in study, I can’t do it,” Newman said.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd), who attended the meeting, said the residents of her ward near the proposed marina site also have indicated opposition.

“Even if this marina were to come out in the black somewhere down the road, I think the people of Evanston have indicated that they don’t want it,” Wynne said.

The committee also approved a study proposed by the City of Chicago to extend Lake Shore Drive into the south edge of Evanston.

Committee member Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) voted to end discussion of an Evanston marina, but he said information on the Chicago project could impact future plans.

“In the short term we don’t have the money,” Jean-Baptiste said. “But I think we have to be careful not to sweep this in the corner thinking that it’s going to go away.”

Reach Breanne Gilpatrick at [email protected]