“Controversially” doesn’t cut it

As I was reading the latest Neighborhood Spotlight section on Kenwood and Cedar-Isles-Dean in the Nov. 1–14 issue, I encountered a phrase that requires more clarification.

The article stated: “Cedar-Isles-Dean can claim a few grand homes of its own, including a handful on Cedar Lake that, controversially, enjoy direct access to the water, a rarity within city limits.”

This situation should not be passed by with just a label of “controversially!”

What makes it a controversial? How about the fact that the entire east shoreline of Cedar Lake is public property, property obtained by Theodore Wirth and the Park Board back in 1933. Wirth and the Park Board also acquired a wide swath of land along both sides of the Kenilworth Lagoon from Cedar Lake to Lake of the Isles.

The vision and purpose of Wirth and the Park Board, according to Wirth’s personal historical book, was to “render the entire shoreline of Cedar Lake available to the public” and to connect Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles by public pathways along the Kenilworth Lagoon, similar to the Lagoon connection between Lake of the Isles and Bde Maka Ska.

The Great Depression and World War II put all park expansion plans on hold. Wirth retired and his vision for Cedar and the Kenilworth Lagoon were never realized.

It was and is still a great plan.

The current condition on the east side of Cedar Lake and through the Kenilworth Lagoon is deplorable. Without any resistance from our no. 1-rated park system, the residents on the east side of Cedar Lake and Kenilworth Lagoon have creatively encroached on our public parkland, making the area look and feel as if it is part of the residents’ backyards. Docks, fences, hedges, retaining walls and patios sit on parkland.

This unusual, very special privilege has had a profound impact on the recreational quality of this entire Cedar-Isles area. Many thousands of residents throughout the area, the city and beyond have been deprived of access to their parkland, of a stroll around Cedar Lake or the opportunity to connect to Cedar-Isles through the Kenilworth Lagoon.

It has made Cedar Lake an isolated, hard to get around area, and certainly has contributed to the years of problems at “Hidden Beach” (Cedar Lake East Beach).

The notion that Theodore Wirth and the Park Board acquired this valuable, precious lake property solely for the enjoyment of the 33 homes abutting this public parkland is preposterous! I’ve lived in the area for 27 years and have never been able to walk around Cedar Lake — nor has anyone else.

So yes, it is controversial. It’s time the Park Board is held accountable for this arrangement. It is a breach of the public trust.


Jake Werner

Bryn Mawr