Keeping Sailing Going

Keeping Sailing Going

A week ago, The City of Highland Park in concert with the Park District of Highland Park announced that their public access boat ramp, and adjoining North Shore Yacht Club would be closed in 2015. Staff in the City had contacted the Department of Homeland Security concerning the water filtration plant that is next to these boating facilities.

Homeland Security recommended that a fence be built around the perimeter of the water filtration plant, not as protection from terrorists, but as protection from anyone who intends harm on the water supply to 127,000 people. A fence with cameras shows that someone is obviously up to no good, and gives time for the police to react and stop anyone inside the perimeter.

Simultaneously, North Shore Yacht Club provides day to day safety to Highland Park's waterfront. At the City Council meeting last night, I spoke to the Mayor and Councilpersons explaining how the club certifies CPR and First Aid to their membership every other year which provides a strong volunteer corp on the water. And with Lake Michigan water temperatures, hypothermia conditions exist at all times.

I was happy to see and meet Chicago Tribune reporter Gregory Trotter there and filed this report.

Their own Fire Department signed the petition to keep the facility open, they launch their rescue boat from this ramp. Closure would force them to have to drive north to the next community launch ramp five miles away, and then have to return by boat for five miles to get back to their beach.

When I took my turn speaking to the City Council, I asked the audience, "How many of you have made a rescue?" I would estimate that 1/4 to 1/3 of the audience of 150+ put their hands up.

Later, one rescuer told his story of a boat that was pounding on the rocks with a woman aboard who was severely injured, with a punctured lung, broken bones in her face and bleeding. Volunteers from the club motored over, then jumped into the water to get to this boat. They moved her to the shore and got her to medical treatment.

The City of Highland Park enjoys a safe waterfront because of their boat launch and the North Shore Yacht Club. And the cost to provide this volunteer corp of safety is minimal to the City.

There is much more the North Shore Yacht Club provides its community. The Federal Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act wants competition facilities across the U.S. to remain open. You never know where a world's champion will emerge. They run sailing school for the youth, as well as a coaching program for three different high schools in the area.

Boating is uber sensitive to economic factors. This club was displaced to the North Beach not too far away this past year when the Water Filtration Plant was undergoing expansion. What occurred was that parking is extremely limited, there is no ramp for launching, the hill is too steep to drive down, and membership dropped by 45%. This also effects sales at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, hardware stores and others.

It also provides community health benefits. Sailing is constant motion and exercise. Boating is a middle class hobby or sport, 95% of all boats sold are less than 26' in length. 75% of boaters have a household income under $100,000. And some of of have estimated that 98% of the boats at Highland Park beach could be bought for under $4,000 a piece.

North Shore Yacht Club membership is under $500 a year, and after you go through an experience check-out, or they teach you to sail and you get checked out, you may use their Sunfish sailboats and Kayaks at no-charge. It really can't more affordable than this.

They aren't making any new waterfront property in the world.  Each time a boating facility is squeezed out in favor of anything else, it is not a healthy sign for all of the reasons mentioned above.

The question that comes down to the City Council and Park District Commissioners is whether real day to day lifesaving should be a trade off to someone attempting malarkey at a water filtration plant (as far as records are concerned, no one has found an example of this occurring at any water filtration plant around Lake Michigan)?

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