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Give us our beach back, demand Humboldt Park residents

People call for the re-opening of the Humboldt Park beach. | Brian Jackson/For the Chicago Sun-Times

They came with beach balls, beach towels and floaties, saying they won’t have any beach to use them on, if the Chicago Park District doesn’t reverse course.

Nearly 200 people protested Sunday afternoon on a bed of sand at Humboldt Park, vowing they won’t back down until the park district agrees to refill the city’s only inland beach, which has operated for decades.

Residents learned there were no plans to reopen Humboldt Park Beach about three weeks ago, when a park district official told community members it was a drain on the budget and the environment.

At Sunday’s protest, longtime residents said they learned to swim at Humboldt Park Beach. Others, like Morgan Halstead, said access to the beach is a key reason she and her family moved to the neighborhood.

People protest the closing of the Humboldt Park beach. Sunday, May 31, 2015 (Brian Jackson/For the Chicago Sun-Times)

“It’s really hard to get to the lakefront,” said Halstead, a teacher with two children under age 6. “We’re not Gold Coast residents. We’re not Lincoln Park residents. . . . it takes 45 minutes on a bus, just one way.”

“I went to this beach as a child,” said Melissa DuPrey, 30, a stand-up comic. “We were able to get together and just walk to the beach.”

Others chanted “Save our beach!” and “Viva la playa!”

Colleen Bayer, 35, and her husband, personal trainer Jeremy Rewey, 37, were at the demonstration with their kids, Ava, 13 months, and Olivia, 4. “Sand is not OK,” Ava said. “We need just water.”

Reached Sunday, parks spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said in an email that the district “is considering not opening the Humboldt Park man-made beach this summer” because it costs $1 million in treated water that needs to be re-filled when it seeps out. The district wants “more sustainable” forms of recreation, such as a soccer field, and the park already has a pool, she said.

But it’s hard to get into the pool, which is small and has an attendance limit, said Heather Haskins, a college instructor, and her husband, Roger Guerrero, who identified himself as a spice importer. They live in the 1000 block of North St. Louis Avenue with their children, 12 and 7.

Organizers of Sunday’s protest urged residents to attend an upcoming meeting of the park district to press for re-opening the beach.

People protest the closing of the Humboldt Park beach. Sunday, May 31, 2015 (Brian Jackson/For the Chicago Sun-Times)