LETTER TO THE EDITOR
It was a bright, sunny day. The northeast wind was cool and brisk. The sky was as clear as could be, a stellar bright blue. May 7th, 2017, was a beautiful spring day.
I took an international visitor to tour the University of Chicago campus. After a stop at the Oriental Institute the guest asked, “Is there a beach nearby?” Researching online, I determined that the 63rd Street Beach was closest. We then traveled the short distance. Parking was easy on this day as almost nobody was there.
We walked towards the persistent waves that were breaking square to the shore. While quite cool, the waves and breeze were magnificent. Then our walking ceased. We were drawn towards the building that appeared to have a balcony where one could view the waves on the lake.
That was also the moment I could first sense that something was not quite right at the 63rd Street Beach. We froze after seeing the locked gate at the top of the stairs. As we then walked towards the shore we saw boarded up building sections and overflowing garbage cans. We stood at the shore for about ten minutes and enjoyed the waves, cool breeze and seagulls.
After leaving, the feeling that something was not quite right lingered. After some research, I found your excellent 2016 article that outlined the poor condition of 63rd Street Beach. It was nice to discover that quality local journalism still exists somewhere in Chicago. It is as rare as a clean, well-maintained park or side street in Chicago that is free of litter, potholes and blight.
The unfortunate condition of the 63rd Street Beach is outrageous. Daniel Burnham could never have envisioned this disturbing situation. His 1909 Plan for Chicago could not have ever envisioned replacing precious, irreplaceable parkland with a “library.” The size of the proposed Obama Center funding makes the current 63rd Street Beach condition look even more petty and foolish.
We deserve positive action on neighborhood, city and statewide recreation and business issues. It could create a far-reaching renaissance across Chicago. That needs to include a transportation plan that improves traffic flow. Cornell Avenue and Marquette Drive must remain open to public car traffic. Removing roads, creating traffic jams and constricting movement is discourteous to future generations. It appears all too easy to do when the person the center plans to honor has decided not to live in Hyde Park anymore.
One of the best attributes of most of the south side is the wide roads that allow traffic to flow well. While we’re at it, why is there no discussion of expanding Lake Shore Drive to the Indiana border? We need world-class traffic planning. Traffic planning needs to treat people’s time as valuable and mature beyond random alderman wishes. This would benefit people across Chicago and create a more equitable, thriving society.
Chicago needs better maintenance of all parks. Their condition does not reflect that of a home city of a sitting President for the past eight years. They should be gleaming. I ask you to send please this article to their alderman and request significant improvement.
I felt inspired by the history, waves and wonderful angle of the 63rd Street Beach to the lake. I would like to see it restored to its former glory, including increased parking. Current and future generations deserve to have a clean, well-maintained, and easy to access 63rd Street Beach.
David Dalka is Founder and Managing Director of Fearless Revival Business Advisory Services. A north side resident, he enjoys exploring the history and sights of the entire city of Chicago.