City discontinues daily beach passes due to lack of staff


Daily file photo by Catherine Buchaniec

Students and Evanston residents walk on the beach near the Segal Visitors Center. The city stopped selling daily beach passes Aug. 12, but seasonal passes are still available.

Hannah Feuer, Reporter

The city of Evanston will no longer sell daily beach passes after Aug. 12, citing reductions in staff availability as many high school and college-aged employees return to school.

Many Evanston beaches have been reaching their capacity limits, which also contributed to the decision, according to Lawrence Hemingway, director of parks, recreation and community services.

Hemingway said there have not been any issues with beaches going over capacity. Beach staff count the number of patrons who enter and exit the beach area to ensure every family unit can have their own 6-by-6 foot square.

Yet because beaches are reaching the maximum density that still allows for social distancing, long lines are forming outside beach entrances as people wait for space to open up, Hemingway said.

Skokie resident Dara Ury said she doesn’t think the capacity limits have been enough to ensure beachgoers comply with social distancing guidelines.

“It just does not look safe past a certain hour,” Ury said. “Even though I think the beach is following their rules, I still think it’s a little much when you get down there.”

Hemingway said social distancing is a “self-governing” practice. Supervisors will sometimes walk through beaches to make sure everyone is spread out, but beach employees’ primary job is to focus on water safety, he said.

“We don’t have a lot of staff going around telling people, ‘Hey, do it,’” Hemingway said. “We got it posted; we got people aware.”

Season beach tokens, which give patrons access to the beaches until Labor Day, will continue to be sold. Tokens are $18 for residents and $30 for non-residents.

Anyone who bought a daily beach pass before Aug. 13 for use at a later date will still be able to use it.

There will also be free beach days for Evanston residents at Clark Street Beach on Aug. 17, 24 and 31.

Hemingway said it’s difficult to estimate how much revenue will be lost from the halt in sales because of the beach business’ dependence on the weather. Regardless, he said money wasn’t a factor in the decision.

“It’s really a work safety issue, making sure we can staff beaches appropriately, as well as make sure we have enough lifeguards and supervisors to provide a safe operation,” Hemingway said. “That is what drove the decision.”

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Twitter: @hannah_feuer

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