Rosewood Beach, Lake Michigan: From industrial to natural to asset

An industrial looking park is transformed into a nature friendly beach enhancing the west shore of Lake Michigan.

This illustrates Rosewood beach prior to the renovation

This illustrates Rosewood beach prior to the renovation

Two years ago, the RosewoodBeach on Lake Michigan consisted of steel groynes approximately every 100 feet, an asphalt parking lot and sand. It was a quiet setting but had an industrial look due to the erosion control method chosen and was not fully used and appreciated by local residents.

Rosewood beach in Highland Park, Illinois, closed in the fall of 2013 to begin a major renovation. David Woodhouse Architects re-developed the beach to be minimalistic in design and naturalistic in appearance. Many government departments came together to develop, fund and build this beautiful beach. Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration (GLFER) and US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) were the primary departments working with the Park District of Highland Park although many others state and federal departments assisted.

The scope of the project included erosion protections, stream daylighting, bluff restoration, native planting and beach expansion. The USACE created three coves using the existing groynes and rocks. This provided erosion protection and created two swimming coves and one nature cove.

Native beach plants have been added to protect the sand. Although very small in size today, these plants will add natural beauty to the beach environment, while providing essential erosion control for this “sand dune” landscape on Lake Michigan.

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 This is the nature cove after project completion

Rosewood is a public beach so facilities are necessary. Restrooms, lockers, showers and lifeguard buildings were all built against the hill using stone and composite planks. This blends into the environment while still providing services to the public. The asphalt parking lot was removed and replaced with a pervious surface that prevents unfiltered water run-off into the lake and is more visually appealing. A boardwalk was created using composite planks instead of solid surface to allow water to filter into the ground rather than creating runoff that could cause erosion.

Highland Park has 11 ravines running throughout the city. One of these ravines flows into Lake Michigan at Rosewood beach. Additional rocks were added to filter this water before it enters the lake. The Purple Martins have created a nesting area in the sand at the mouth of the ravine. The birds were not present prior to the renovation.

The Rosewood Project also focused on education. An InterpretiveCenter was built on the north side of the beach with many educational signs explaining the habitat, environment, the different watersheds, etc. The center is available for rent for nature-themed birthday party based on geology and habitat exploration. The center can also be used for meetings and other gatherings that want a different venue.

Over the past two years this beach has been transformed using an environmentally conscience focus. Many beach communities use groynes or concrete seawalls to stop beach erosion. Groynes are a temporary fix but do not address the long-term issue.  The Rosewood Project provides a long-term solution by creating a natural environment around community development. Residence will enjoy the beaches: both pleasure and beauty. The final product is worth replicating on Lake Michigan or any other Great Lakes beaches. To see the completed project, watch this video.

For more information on the project details visit the Park District of Highland Park webpage.  For more information on erosion controls check out the Michigan State Universitiy webpage.

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