The final concept design plan of March 2004 for the lakeshore and park expansion in the Morgan Shoals/Pebble Beach sector, 45th-51st

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Next public meeting: tba early 2015 6:30 pm Morgan Shoal shoreline protection and park improvement meeting. CPD and partners are coming with a more detailed plan. Please join the Chicago Park District along with CDOT for a public meeting regarding improvements for Burnham Park between 45th Street and 51st Street. Mandrake Park fieldhouse, 3835 S. Cottage Grove.

New in the ten years since.... Future and inclusion of the historic Silver Spray shipwreck on the reef.

To Final morgan plan design views page 1 of 3. Views of the site: in Series #1 Morgan

1: Morgan Shoal/45-51st home page.
2: Early views
Mid-process views
4: [This page] Final design option presentation, comments and from the final Concept Development Report, summer 2004. Page index
Final design option views and schematics -1
6: Final design option views -2
7: Final design option views -3 detail of south activity area

The four concept views from November 19 focus group meeting and a side-by-side from the October 22 public meeting
The two concept views and view-from-the-Point overlays from the January 21 public meeting
Earlier concept and engineering renderings- the basis for the kinds of plans that have emerged for this section

Visit the city site on these plans at
Comment to project manager Vasile Jurca.

South Lakefront Protection Project home. Point home page. Burnham Timeline. Burnham Park Framework Plan. Lakefront Protection Ordinance. Burnham Nature Center. Parks home.


At the March 2 final concept meeting of the community focus group, the "Morgan Sands" and Morgan Peninsula concepts were merged into one. This received widespread consensus support as providing all the benefits and very few of the drawbacks from each. (Naturally, it is not the same as keeping the present: some may grumble that the new "pebble beach" lacks the charm of the present, that land's end is really far out, and that the base will appear over the water from Promontory Point. Also, the community and park district had better start planning for a beach house!) The plan will be presented with at most minor tweaking to the March 23 public meeting. Planning will move into feasibility and impact studies and final engineering. The project is expected to start in spring, 2005 and continue through spring, 2007. Expect at least one more public meeting.

....In the proposal, a sand beach lined by dunes stretches the length of seven football fields on the northern edge. The park narrows to a peninsula roughly a half mile into Lake Michigan with a wetlands area sitting in the middle of the park. To the south a prairie landscape is edged by a curving pebble beach that fac[es] Promontory Point. Fields and picnicking areas hug the entire western edge of the park abutting the drive.

A proposed wooden [recycled materials] boardwalk will snake through the dunes and wetlands areas, allowing users to tramp "above" rather than "on" the fragile plant environments.... HP Herald, March 31

Status before the March 2 Focus Group meeting: From the Winter 2004 Conference Reporter.

In the Parks: Park and Shore Expansion for Morgan Shoal (45th-51st Streets)

by Gary Ossewaarde

Proposals for a critical section of our lakeshore opposite Kenwood are down to two concepts, but both may include too much, leaving park visitors potentially isolated.

The Chicago Park District, Chicago Department of Environment, and Army Corps of Engineers are holding a series of public focus group meetings on plans to reconfigure a sensitive part of our lakefront. HPKCC participates in the broad-based focus group of organizations and residents established by Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th).

Perhaps some lessons in flexibility, early communication and engagement were learned from the breakdowns over Promontory Point. Certainly, because bedrock is close to the water surface here, this project provides more opportunity to consider varied features. It also makes a nod to the unrealized promise of [Daniel] Burnham's Plan of Chicago while helping undo the pinching of parts of Burnham Park for the sake of the the automobile.

Previous options were combined into two for the second public meeting, January 21. They both bow the park out blocks into the Lake (one even 600 feet farther), have mostly soft shore edges with sand and pebble beaches and some rocky shores, vegetated dunes and prairie grass swales, wetlands, and traditional ball-and-picnic lawns. Improved access, lakefront bike trail, and secondary paths with bridges and boardwalk are provided. (However, facilities like beach houses and concessions cannot, by law, be included in the [$42] million plan, and other funding has not been identified.

Option 1, "Morgan Sands" has features paralleling the lakeshore. Option 2, "Morgan Peninsula," has much of the land elongated into the lake along a peninsula with an island.

The public was very concerned about effects on and needs of wildlife and plant communities, about views from the north and south, and about security...and brought many insights to the design team.

But when asked to choose between the two plans, the audience was about evenly divided between "Sands," "Peninsula." and "no choice"!

Not raised was the question of whether both plans provide, at great expense, too much and make the park too large at a place where access is limited and users are likely to feel vulnerable. Those who opposed the Peninsula plan did say they did not like the fact that it encroaches on the Shoal, an existing and historic feature and habitat, favors some groups of birds over others, goes against the grain of the shore, interposes a feature in the way of skyline views (even though it doesn't much block them), and anyone who goes out to the end is isolated far from the natural shore.

Some thought the best solution would be to go with a slimmed and simplified "Sands" or use the simpler main part of the Peninsula option, thickened a bit on the north and without the "peninsula."

Revised plans will be presented to the Focus Group in early March and to the public in near-final form March 23..... Construction will take place [spring 2005] into [2007]. For more information, visit or the city site, Give us feedback at hpkcc@aol.coml or 773 288-8343.


'Beach-insula' planned at Morgan Shoal shoreline

Hyde Park Herald, March 10, 2004. by Mike Stevens [Note, the 47th St. ped. overpass is a separate project.]

Faced with the choice of a peninsula or a sandy beach at 47th Street, city officials have decided to go with a little bit of both. The final design for the $42 million Morgan Shoal project was met with approval by the community group charged with signing off on the plan.

"I think it's an exciting plan and I'm glad they are improving the south lakefront," said Hyde Parker Kay Clement, a member of the design group, which met last Tuesday. A public meeting is scheduled for March 23.

The design features a long sand beach leading to a peninsula sitting more than a half mile into Lake Michigan. A wetlands area will divide the north-facing sandy beach from prairie land edged by a curving pebble beach facing southward. A proposed boardwalk will allow park users to walk through the dunes and wetlands without trampling plants, according to botanist Ken Bagstad.

Low water depths at the shoal give the city the option of "inventing" acres of new park space, said project manager Vasile Jurca. Hundreds of truckloads of concrete from demolished roadways and buildings will act as landfill for the peninsula. Then topsoil, sand and plantings will be added, according to city consultant Mark Wagstaff.

In an effort to improve access to the proposed park a new $2.3 million pedestrian access bridge will be built at 47th Street. Bridge construction is slated to begin this fall and will run through May of 2005. "It's going to be a dramatic, award-winning bridge," said Bob Lommis of the city transportation department.

Using the Morgan Shoal to build out into Lake Michigan had officials for a Lake Michigan advocacy group concerned. But plans to leave portions of the shoal undeveloped while increasing water access from the wetland to the lake helped win preliminary approval from Joel Brammeier of the Lake Michigan Federation. "I think you're definitely on the track with the open wetlands," said Brammeier.

While the broad brush strokes of the design won approval, many in the design group dove into details quickly. Some residents voiced concerts that an 11-foot wide concrete and asphalt path and an accompanying bridge spanning the wetlands to the peninsula will spoil the natural beauty of the park. City officials countered that the peninsula needs to be accessible to emergency vehicles and maintenance trucks which require a substantial road and bridge. "It may not need not look like a substantial [bridge] but has to function like one," said Chris Gent of the Chicago Park District.

The current project does not include funding for a changing station/restroom. "You haven't identified a place for a beach house. You cannot have a beach without a beach house," 4th Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle said. City officials assured the alderman a beach house could be built in open park space next to the sandy beach in the northern edge of the park.

Construction is slated to begin in spring of 2005 and continue through spring of 2007. ...


Synopsis of the March 2 meeting

by Gary Ossewaarde, HPKCC

The design team said that the new plan not only blends the two previous concepts but reflects more refined studies and models and seeks to move from abstract concepts to a natural topography and design, like found at real sites. For example, dunes in this area are more likely to align themselves in ridges rather than random hillocks. Efforts were also made to maximize visibility of the Shoal and enhance or respect other vistas (many overlooks) and create visible, even approachable, wetland edge--a dynamic wetland edge which uses terracing, bird stands and other innovations.

Lots of buffers are also created, especially along the Drive, using clumps of trees, but these are still "concept trees." Some areas are designed to serve a number of design and activity roles, such as the drainage gap at the south transition to step-stone revetment. There is also increased prairie.

A hierarchy of paths and trails with different looks and materials will improve navigation and draw people into closer observation, and access enhanced with resting nooks, furniture, and overlooks. These include wide asphalt paths with soft running shoulders, gravel paths and boardwalks. Special places are provided for fishermen, including a fishing station. At the south transition to revetment will be a council ring like picnic lawn and stone council rings elsewhere. Appropriate lighting and interpretive signage and plenty of use of stone complete the furnishings. There is plenty of room for traditional activities--there will be football field sized open spaces.

They cited these as the strengths people at the last public meeting saw in the two options presented then, and which helped guide the final plan:
Morgan Sands:

Morgan Peninsula

The team concedes there will not be as much opportunity for deep swimming as previously planned, but still greatly increased opportunity to get into the water over what's there now.

Ecological goals were developed by the Park District Department of Natural Resources. These include wildlife viewing, reintroduction of native plants, wildlife and fish habitat, and creating a rare-on-the-lakefront varied wetland ("primary aquatic habitat") in the heart of the new parkland-using part of the shoal as the bottom, 5 to 10 feet deep. The submerged breakwater ("2ndary aquatic habitat") will have special structures favorable to fish habitat. Several zones of bird habitat will be created, components being plantings, varied ecological zones (including within the wetland), grasses-shrubs-trees that birds can use for food, nesting, and shelter. Parts of the traditional parkland will be developed to double as secondary bird habitat in addition to the whole center of the new park designated Primary Bird Habitat/High Quality Native Plant areas. In the latter, special paths and boardwalks will discourage trampling and disturbance. (Vegetation will start low along paths to encourage security. Fishing stations will be among features that blend recreational and nature uses and characteristics.)

The team went through the various zones and cross sections/transects in terms of "layering's" Activities, Plant Communities, Ecological goals.

Comments from the group

A few comments from the group addressed the need for the Park District to identify funds for a beachhouse and Transportation to speed up plans for bike/pedestrian overpasses (Transp. is asking for funds for 43rd and 41st now, has for 47th and 35th). Others deplored the width and sturdiness of access paths and bridge at the peninsula that will double for emergency and service vehicles or asked for more stone block or rubble and less concrete. People were pleased that constructing on the main part of the Shoal will be avoided.

Top including to Navigation. Continue to views and schematics.

Synopsis of the March 23 public meeting at Kennicott Park

An overview was followed by feedback on such features as the bridge joining the land south and north of the wetland (people preferred the least obtrusive, rustic type) and overlook and informational signage, and then public comments.

New: There will not be a drop-off east of the Drive.

Comments included: A plea for a designated snorkeling area at the Shoal (which seemed to be in line with Park District planning). Another urged that the area not be populated by lifeguards driving back the deep swimmers.
Planners were urged to slope drainage carefully to "drainage gaps" so as to avoid bogs and standing water especially behind revetments.
Planners were urged to restrict fencing to the plant-establishment period and keep the boardwalk materials natural-looking.
Planners were encouraged to downsize trails where possible and use structures and buffers to discourage blowing sand.
One expressed disappointment at lack of a playground.

With regard to a beachhouse/comfort station, Joseph Bornstein of the Park District said the district knows there has to be something. They are not inclined to leave the present comfort station in place until a new is ready. Aldermen Preckwinkle said it is her job, on behalf of the community, to insist that funds be quickly identified for a good beachhouse (by 47th).

Next meeting: summer, subject progress and feedback on Design Phase Issues.

Design Phase Issues:


Beach house the missing link in lakefront proposal

Hyde Park Herald, March 31, 2004. By Mike Stevens

Residents skipped talk of beach strolling and cable-suspension bridges last week to focus on a missing beach house during the city's final presentation of the 47 Street bech design.

City plans for the lakefront between 45th and 51st Streets, which combine elements of a long sandy beach and a peninsula, won support from residents at Kennicott Fieldhouse, 4434 S. Lake Park Ave., last Tuesday but lingering questions about a missing beach house remained.

"[The poppas is beautiful," said Hyde Park resident Robin Kaufman, adding "If I can find a place to go to the bathroom I'm sure I'll enjoy it."

The $42 million project never included money for a new beach house and that leaves the Chicago Park district responsible for building a changing room and bathrooms for beachgoers. An existing "comfort station" along the lakefront path at 50th Street will be demolished. "Traditionally, once [the basic infrastructure of a project] is completed then we'll look at additional capital improvements such as beach houses, comfort stations and playgrounds," said parks spokesman Julian Green.

Current designs leave room for a beach house, which will likely be located on the park's northern end between the sand beach and the 47th Street pedestrian bridge, said Joseph Bornstein, the park district's project manager. "Our policy is that we've got to provide something," Bornstein said, stopping just short of guaranteeing a bathing facility.

But Bornstein's hedging drew the ire of residents. One resident said designing a beach without a beach house was the park district's typical"slap-ass" attitude.

Interrupting further venting, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) said she will work on securing money for a new beach house that will reflect the expanded and upgraded new park. "This is something I will take up with [park Superintendent] Tim Mitchell," Preckwinkle promised.

Along the shoreline between 45th Street and 51st bedrock sits four to six feet beneath the surface of Lake Michigan. This exposed bedrock--called a shoal--allows the city to create acres of new park space cheaply with landfill.

In the proposal, a sand beach lined by dunes stretches the length of seven football fields on the northern edge. The park narrows to a peninsula roughly a half mile into Lake Michigan with a wetlands area sitting in the middle of the park. To the south a prairie landscape is edged by a curving pebble beach that fac[es] Promontory Point. Fields and picnicking areas hug the entire western edge of the park abutting the drive.

A proposed wooden [recycled materials] boardwalk will snake through the dunes and wetlands areas, allowing users to tramp "above" rather than "on" the fragile plant environments, city constant Mark Wagstaff said.

Meanwhile, the bridge connecting the peninsula and the southern half of the park needs to be designed. When presented with examples of cable-suspension bridges, truss bridges and arches, most residents opted for less rather than more. "I'd vote for the least intrusive, whatever that turns out to be," said Hyde Park resident Randi Doeker. Construction is slated to begin in spring of 2005 and continue through spring of 2007. Further meetings will be scheduled during the spring and summer as engineers flesh out the current proposal.


From the final Concept Development Report, summer 2004 (paraphrased)

Morgan Shoal Project Design Philosophy

" The opportunity to create this unique natural environment in the middle of a major city and within view of the magnificent Chicago Skyline, supports the vision of integrating our urban and natural environments. The coexistence of these environments must occur in order to ensure the survival of our ecology, environment and quality of life. This project can serve a an example, stimulating and encouraging such environmental coexistence throughout the city, state and nation."

Imported goals

From the Lakefront Protection Project

From the Burnham Park Framework Plan

Burnham PFP site-specific goals and recommendations:

A new cove and wetland area, an expanded land area, a nature trail, fishing pier, beach and picnic area, out-location of active recreation facilities.

Recently upgraded facilities impact on planning

South Lake Shore Drive; expanded and reconstructed shore and beach, other facilities. Some of these are facilities and characters now not need in the Morgan Shoal sector, leaving the latter open for other ideas.

The site: a unique opportunity along Chicago's Lake Michigan shoreline.

Morgan Shoal is an outcropping of bedrock that leaves the lake bottom nearly 20 feet shallower than surrounding. Waves break far out and the bedrock makes driving piles and laying concrete difficult and less necessary.

Chicago's pre-settlement shoreline was dominated by low sand dunes up to 20 feet above lake elevation (ridge-and-swale), covered where the sands were not traveling with specialized grasses, vines, and other dune-adapted plants. Behind the older, stable dunes grew black oak savannas that thrive on sandy soils not far above water table. Seasonal wetlands existed in low spots between dunes, often with connections to the lake. Ecologically as well as structurally diverse, it met the needs of many animals including a host of birds, including millions of migratory birds.

This is one of the narrowest stretch of parkland ("open space deficit"), as close as 50 feet from the Drive. this stretch has no habitat or recreation amenities except the Lakefront Trail and a comfort station.

Hyde Park and Kenwood are among the most heavily populated and diverse communities of the south lakefront and areas to its north are reinvesting and infilling. Important institutions exist to the south.

Public Process. The team used the approach of "listening first." This included a design group which alternated with public meetings, and web-based planning input. The process was incremental: input> goals > concepts > designs. Goals were developed, then given schematics that expressed the goals in physical terms, then the visualized goals were balanced and combined.

Concept design philosophy

Habitat: create a unique experience providing native landscape and habitat reminiscent of pre-development days and encourage and diversify plant, bird, insect, aquatic, animal life and also provide educational opportunities via pathways, elevated trails and lookouts:

Circulation: Traditional park active open spaces at the overpasses at 47th and 50th, improved Lakefront Trail and side paths and boardwalks including into natural sections. Passive recreational areas at various other locations.

Goals summary

Program elements

Four concepts were presented based on these elements and these were progressively refined and combined into one, in tandem with engineering, in the combined design and meeting process. The early concepts were "49th Beach," "South Side Wetlands," "MOrgan Dunes," and "Morgan Island."

Design refinement process

Coastal engineering (wave energy, sand transport, structures, water quality)
Environmental science
Site access and parking

Ecological goals

Aquatic habitat enhancement within two years of completion

Bird habitat restoration within several years of initial planting as plants establish

Terrestrial/rare plant community restoration within 2-3 years after construction

Environmental education/outreach following construction and initial planting

Refined concept developed from the key questions that arose from feedback:

  1. What is the proper balance between special environmentally oriented spaces with more traditional open parkland space?
  2. Does the design celebrate or diminish the Morgan Shoal's uniqueness by extending out and building upon it?

    During the process, appreciated were extensive sand and pebble beaches, dunes, wetlands. Building onto the shoal was appreciated for boldness but feared for effect on the shoal [genius of the lakefront] and security.

The final concept: lessened the peninsula some and made it solid on the north with a variety of "people spaces" on its access to mitigate security concerns; had construction on the shoal was limited; refined the extensive environmental habitat in the center, balanced with activity areas near the access points; made dune and swale integrated with both habitat and activity areas.

including to Navigation. Continue to views and schematics.