The following is a letter to the editor from 15-year Wilmette resident, Danielle Mergner. Submit your opinions on lakefront development to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the Wilmette Park District begins its assessment of the lakefront to establish a long-range master plan, I think it's critical that the Commission and public remember the cost implications, and accordingly tax implications, to any projects suggested to rejuvenate the lakefront. On the heels of a 33 percent income tax increase from the State of Illinois AND an 18 percent property tax increase for District 39, the taxpayer can ill afford another increase to taxes. Any work done with regard to the Lakefront must be paid for out of the current budget allocated toward those facilities or revenues generated by those facilities, and perhaps supplemented with grants.
With regard to programming and operations at the two beach parks, non-resident user fees should be evaluated to see if they are competitive, and that those enjoying the parks are paying a fair share of the maintenance and upkeep as the residents support these parks through taxes in addition to user fees. Consider reducing expenses, e.g. salaries and inventory purchases, by subcontracting operations like boat rental or the beach concession. Why need the taxpayers underwrite this? Outsourcing operations like these might result in better quality and thus increased use, giving the park district additional revenue and the village added sales tax revenue as well.
As far as additional children's programs, we do have the recreation center programs to fulfill this need, but any program being considered should be supported by user fees alone, without supplement. Perhaps a reason to leave "as is" would be for those residents wishing to enjoy the lake in quiet solitude without the onslaught of campers who hit the lakefront almost daily during the summer. has tot lots and bathrooms. Preserving Langdon "as is" appeals to another demographic, preserves the beauty without the need for man-made structures and quite frankly reduces the need for costly building maintenance.
With regard to the natural environment, grants should be explored to fund any necessary improvements. The lake is a beautiful natural resource to be appreciated for what it is. Why need we hide it with unnecessary paths, nature centers, running trails, bike lanes, benches, exercise trails, etc? Let's enjoy its natural beauty as a green space. The North Shore and Chicago offer a plethora of other avenues to access nature centers, e.g. the Grove, bike lanes, e.g. the Green Bay Trail, exercise facilities, e.g. the Wilmette Recreation Center. Why would we fund duplicative experiences at the expense of pristine green space?
The Park Board and community need to remember that the economy is not yet recovered and people are financially stretched. The recent tax increases have exacerbated the financial strain residents are experiencing. Though some ideas sound wonderful, people often forget where the money comes from. It comes from the taxpayers and as such, it is incumbent upon the board members to be responsible custodians and ensure this community lives within its means.
It is unconscionable to tax long-time residents out of this community.
Yours very truly,