ROGERS PARK — Late last year, crews for the city worked to protect the Rogers Park shoreline from a rising Lake Michigan while preserving some of the last remaining beachfront at two neighborhood parks.
But after a major storm last weekend devastated lakefront areas throughout Chicago, city officials have determined that the beaches at Rogers and Howard park are no longer salvageable. They will instead be replaced with rocks, with a dream of someday restoring the beaches, but that could take years.
Near-record Lake Michigan levels have combined with early winter storms to wreak havoc on Rogers Park’s lakefront — so much so that emergency shoreline stabilization work was conducted by the city.
That work led to massive revetment walls made of stone — also known as rip rap — to be installed at Juneway, Rogers and Howard beaches.
At the time of the work, crews believed they could preserve the last remaining beach space at Rogers and Howard parks. The slim portions of the beachfront that were not underwater were not covered by the revetment walls.
A storm last Saturday, however, brought inches of rain and punishing winds, battering the lakefront and causing damage all throughout the city. The storm was also the final nail in the coffin for the beaches at Rogers and Howard parks, said Ald. Maria Hadden (49th).
“Originally, plans for Rogers and Howard beaches included retaining access to the beach, but the lake has spoken and, due to the damage experienced this weekend, CDOT has determined this is no longer a possibility,” Hadden said in an update to constituents. “… In order to protect the public land as much as possible, it is necessary to install additional rip rap where we experienced erosion.”
The revetment wall at Juneway Beach — where no beach front was preserved — withstood the storm, Hadden said.
The weekend storm’s impact on Rogers Park was evident well after the weather event. At Loyola Beach, debris and downed fences lined the remaining beachfront. Sand was swept into the park, nearly covering park benches.
At Howard Beach, concrete embankments erected behind the remaining beachfront were cracked and dislodged by the winter storm.
Chicago Department of Transportation officials confirmed the further erosion at Rogers and Howard beaches. The agency will work to fortify those areas of the lakefront, it said in a statement.
“We are in the process of adding the eroded areas to the current scope and have them completed with additional rip rap and armor stone by the middle of February,” a spokesman for the department said.
The emergency shoreline stabilization work is meant as a temporary stopgap, Hadden has said. Her office is working with the city and Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s office to secure federal funding for a study of the Far North Side’s shoreline erosion and eventually a more permanent fix.
Part of a long-term plan could include turning the stone revetment walls at Juneway, Rogers and Howard beaches into breakwaters that can protect the shoreline against dangerous wave activity, Hadden said.
And while a more permanent solution is sought, Rogers Park neighbors are trying to utilize the lakefront as best they can, while they can.
“It’s really sad because it’s taking over our beaches,” Rogers Park resident Ann Christophersen said days after last weekend’s storm. “I’m hoping that the lake will go down.”
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