For the last few years, spring has brought warmer weather, as well as annual petitions and pushback against rumors that the city will shut down Humboldt Park Beach. But as DNAinfo reports, with the specter of serious cuts to the Park District budget due to a $28 million grant freeze from Governor Rauner, locals and beachgoers are a little more on edge this year. While the beach's full-time lifeguard has been cut from the yearly budget, there's no official word on any closure or change of plans. But that hasn't prevented a pre-emptive petition to save the beach from gathering more than 1,000 signatures.
The Humboldt Park Beach is a relatively recent addition to the neighborhood, considering the century-plus legacy of the park. Built in 1973 and funded by $4.2 million in state funds, the warm weather refuge was created when Park District workers drained more than six million gallons of water from the lagoon via a dike then dug up a two-foot layer of silt at the bottom, which was replaced with sand trucked in from the Indiana Dunes. A Tribune article from that July went so far as to call the new addition "Riviera on the Northwest Side," and city architect Jerome Butler was quoted as saying it had "everything Lake Michigan has -- plus cleaner water."
The transformed lagoon was meant to be a model for additional inland beaches in park across Chicago, and at the time Mayor Daley wasn't just interested in adding swimming holes. In another article announcing the construction of the beach, he repeated his dream of having fisherman return to the banks of the Chicago River. With fish ponds in parks, Chicagoans will "be encouraged to master to use of fishing rods." He also claimed Chicago will "be the salmon center of the nation" in a few years, since city workers had plans to drop 85,000 chinook salmon into the lake that year. We can only dream of what could have come of a ready salmon supply and Calumet Fisheries.