By Katherine Richardson
Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute
Two men tread up the beach, drop their yellow tickets into a trash-can, and share their objections to the $8 entry fee, a cost about which many beach-goers complain.
Lucas Keisler, 21, an IT server administrator from Minneapolis, said he sees the fee as unwelcome—and perhaps unfair.
“I’ve never been here," Keisler said. "I think it’s very, very stupid because when I was younger, my family didn’t have a lot of money and one of the things we did was go to the beach because it’s free.”
Another beach-goer, John Fox, a resident of Mexico who was visiting relatives in Evanston, said he does not have to pay for beach access at home. He said he sees the Evanston beach fee as an injustice to low-income families and those struggling with the recession.
“I think it’s probably in the long run a good idea, but I think there should be some consideration for low-income people also,” Fox, 69, said. “Maybe a reduced rate for low income. Maybe they pay a quarter of the price the rest of us would pay.”
Evanston uses revenue from the fees to pay for lifeguards, cleanup and other beach expenditures. The daily charge is $8, which rose by $1 in 2002. A season token costs $16 to $32 for residents and $28 to $56 for non-residents, depending on when tokens are bought. Some fee assistance is available for qualified residents, according to the city website.
Although the city uses the money to maintain and guard the beaches, Rinya Daniel, 32, an office manager from Skokie, said that the beach should still belong to everyone without charge.
“They charge because they’re trying to keep it cleaner than the other sides, but it’s a beach. It should be free for everyone,” she said.
Keisler suggested a possible solution to the problem. “It seems like they employ a lot of people. Maybe employ fewer people and make it free,” he said.
He and his friend washed the sand from their feet and walked away from the glistening Lake Michigan water behind them, $8 less in their pockets.
Katherine Richardson is a high school student from California participating in a five-week journalism program with Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article included incorrect information about the cost of beach tokens. We sincerely regret the error.