Dawes Park Lagoon subject of new project

Kevin Trahan

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The lagoon at Dawes Park in Evanston will be getting a facelift next April, after receiving a $400,000 grant from the state as part of the Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Program.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources awarded a total of $12.3 million to 42 projects around the state, with the lagoon undertaking receiving the maximum possible grant for a single project.

The $400,000 will be added to a $500,000 donation the city received from the Arrington Foundation last year, helping the city push toward its goal of raising $1,000,000 for the project. Doug Gaynor, Evanston parks and recreation director, said the project will look for $100,000 from the city’s capital improvement fund next year. The lagoon has not been well-maintained or refurbished since it was built, so Gaynor said it is in dire need of repair.

“It’s a really important feature out at the lakefront,” he said. “It leaks, the membranes are cracking and the perimeter, concrete and brickworks are broken.”

The lagoon will be named the Arrington Lakefront Lagoon for the late W. Russell Arrington, who was a state senator and representative in the Illinois General Assembly for 28 years. Arrington was the namesake of the Arrington Foundation, which donated the original funding for the project.

W. Russell Arrington’s son, Michael Arrington, is the president of the foundation and said he is excited to see funding for the project move along.

“Municipalities throughout the US are struggling in this difficult economic time,” Arrington said. “Because we live in Evanston and have enjoyed living in Evanston, we thought this was nice way to give back.”

His family’s tie to Evanston is what drew Arrington to the project in the first place, and given his father’s impact on the community, he said it makes sense that his father’s name be attached to this particular project.

“I’m a lifelong resident of Evanston – born and raised,” Arrington said. “I raised my children here, my grandchildren are being raised here and my father, W. Russell Arrington, started his career here in politics. He was a key person who wrote and passed the legislation that gave Northwestern the ability to build the (lakefill) and expand the university into Lake Michigan. I thought it was very fitting that, half-a-mile away from the university, to (donate to) the lagoon project.”

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl expressed her support for the project in a release on the Evanston city website. She acknowledged the significance of the State working with the Arrington family, and gave thanks to Governor Pat Quinn.

“Through the efforts of State Senator Jeff Schoenberg, State Representative Robyn Gabel and staff from our Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, the residents of Evanston will now enjoy a revitalized lakefront lagoon that will serve as a peaceful respite for all of us for many years to come,” Tisdahl said in the statement.

“It is fitting that the remaining funding for this project comes from the State of Illinois as we recognize W. Russell Arrington’s distinguished service in the General Assembly by naming the lagoon in his honor.”