Rogers Park residents rally against new road

Breanne Gilpatrick

When a friend called Rogers Park resident Joy Richards last week to tell her about possible plans to extend Lake Shore Drive through her neighborhood, Richards said she ended her trip to Wisconsin early to come home and try to prevent just that from happening.

Richards, who has lived in the North Shore neighborhood for 11 years, joined other Rogers Park residents trying to pass a referendum against expanding the famed lakefront highway.

As part of this movement, Richards was one of about 50 people who attended a dinner Tuesday at Cafe Suron, 1146 W. Pratt Blvd., to raise money to campaign for a ‘no’ vote on the referendum.

The referendum will be on the Nov. 2 ballot in 10 Rogers Park precincts and will ask residents to indicate whether area governments should allow an extension of Lake Shore Drive or the creation of any new roads, marinas or developments.

The Save Our Lakefront campaign, whose members wrote the referendum and organized the fund raiser, will use the money raised Tuesday to contact the 6,000 voters in that area, said Jonathan Roth, who serves on the fund-raising steering committee for the Save Our Lakefront campaign.

Francis X. Tobin, a 19-year Rogers Park resident and treasurer of the Rogers Park Community Action Network, said residents drafted a petition to place the Rogers Park referendum on the ballot after hearing rumors that the City of Chicago was considering plans to expand Chicago park land — a plan that could include the extension of Lake Shore Drive to the southern edge of Evanston.

A Chicago Park District spokeswoman told The Daily earlier this month that the city still needs to conduct a feasibility study to see if a park extension plan is possible. But a Chicago foundation already has sponsored a design competition for possible ideas.

One of the drawings from this competition was presented at an Oct. 4 meeting of the Evanston Human Services Committee.

At this meeting the committee recommended a study of any Chicago park expansion plans. The issue is scheduled to be discussed at the Oct. 25 Evanston City Council meeting.

Tobin said the Rogers Park advisory referendum is designed to raise awareness among residents about the issue and to send a message to local politicians.

“Our goal is to get 90 percent ‘no,'” Tobin said. “That should send a sufficiently strong message to elected officials that if they don’t go with what our people are saying, it could mean serious trouble for their political careers.”

Steve Parkes, a Rogers Park resident and business owner who attended this fund raiser, said he is opposed to extending Lake Shore Drive even if new development would increase business at his community grocery store.

“(Extending Lake Shore Drive would) totally destroy … the property values of everyone around here,” Parkes said. “It will just completely change the dynamic of Rogers Park.”

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Network on the vote to expand Lake Shore Drive into Evanston