Sue Ontiveros: Creative solution could open beach

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// ]]>Yep, sometimes I’m like a dog with a bone. Just can’t let it go.

That’s how I feel right now when it comes to the Humboldt Park Beach, the city’s only remaining inland beach.

As I wrote last week, the Chicago Park District announced — but failed to make known to the community until the last minute — water won’t be pumped into that beach this year.

The decision for this summer is supposed to be final, but the more I think about it, the more I know that shouldn’t be it. It’s easy to say on a cool rainy day, as the Park District board did, that Humboldt Park and surrounding communities will have to do without a beach. But the weather’s getting ready to turn hot and humid and stay that way, and the kids — now out of school — will be looking for a place to cool off.

OPINION

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The answer isn’t that everyone from that corner of the Northwest Side should head to the lakefront. Or go to the nearby pool, that from what I read on social media, seems rife with rules.

My original column drew interesting feedback from Park District workers past and present. Literally knowing how things work, they’re mighty skeptical about the $1 million price tag that’s been attached to the beach’s operation. (Alas, no one’s willing to go on the record.)

While at that beach with no water (well, some rainwater) thinking about the situation, a viable solution hit me. It was in plain sight, just up the asphalt path from the beach. There sits Little Cubs Field. It’s a replica of Wrigley and kids play baseball there.

The Chicago Cubs, along with the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, pitched in and built this ballfield. A wonderful place for kids to learn the game, have fun and stay out of trouble. That got me to thinking: why couldn’t the NFL do the same to get the beach open this year?

During protests against the beach closing, it’s been brought up repeatedly that the wealthy NFL got a waiver on a park fee that was almost as much as what it purportedly takes to operate that beach for a summer. Maybe it wasn’t tit for tat, despite what it looks like. But why couldn’t the mayor approach the NFL and say, hey, could you help us out?

Speaking of the mayor – the guy who devoted much of his inaugural speech to the importance of helping our city’s “disconnected youth,” some of whom reside not far from that beach – since it’s supposedly the water bill that rings up the costs (again, something park workers are doubting), why couldn’t he give the beach a break this year?

When he first entered office, the mayor cut way back on who is exempt from paying for water. But there are nonprofits (small churches mostly) that get a break. Why not temporarily extend one to the Humboldt Park Beach?

The city was able to put together a celebration for the Blackhawks in three days. I’m confident the powers that be could figure out some way to open that beach by July 4 weekend.

Families on tight budgets always could bring their kids to the beach and spend nothing, yet keep everyone entertained. For the disconnected youth the mayor talked about, summer is a dangerous time. They need positive outlets.

This beach is a necessity, not an expendable option.

Email: sueontiveros.cst@gmail.com

Twitter: @sueontiveros

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