Excellent piece by The Daily Northwestern about the history of beach tokens in Evanston and how they create a racial and socioeconomic barrier to access.
The question about access to Evanston's beaches has been asked for as long as I can remember! Is it time to do something about it?
Some excerpts from the article:
"Visiting all of the city’s beaches was free until 1931, according to an Evanston History Center report. Although beaches were free, they were segregated. According to a Shorefront Legacy Center report, Black people could only visit a small portion of the beach off of Lake Street at the time."
"When Evanston began selling tokens in 1931, the system was posed as a way to temporarily generate revenue to fund a 'beachfront beautification program.' However, Black residents couldn’t purchase the tokens."
'The policy that’s been in place since the 1930s has reinforced the system of White supremacy in Evanston,' Evanston Township High School teacher Abdel Shakur said. 'They’re lifeguards, but part of their job is to make sure that the people on the beach are people who paid to be there.'"
"'Until we have a way to balance our budget, I understand why we have tokens,' Parks and Recreation director Lawrence Hemingway said. 'It’s really difficult for us at this time to eliminate the tokens, so that’s why we work hard to create access for those who can’t afford it.'"
"Evanston Mayor-elect Daniel Biss said the lakefront should be a universally accessible public community asset, and that he would prefer to do away with beach tokens altogether.
'We don’t say you have to buy a token to be able to go to James Park or to go for a walk along the lakefront on the bypass,' Biss said. 'Yet we do say that you need to buy a token to be able to enjoy access to what is maybe our most treasured outdoor public space. We’re rationing access to this public asset, and we’re rationing it by the ability to pay.'"
Do you think Evanston should do away with tokens?
How would the City finance maintenance, equipment costs, and a seasonal staff of lifeguards and attendants?