A warm Thursday evening brought groups of people, with the occasional book reader or lone surfer, to the original limestone steps of Burnham Park’s Promontory Point, a serene spot beloved by locals and tourists nestled in the neighborhood from East Hyde Park on Chicago’s Lakefront.
In an effort to maintain the point’s historic charm, hundreds of thousands of federal dollars have been requested for fiscal year 2023 to revive a long-awaited preservation study of the limestone revetment at Promontory Point, which has been there since its inception. in 1938.
The study would determine a “preferred preservation approach” for the design of the Promontory Point Shoreline Protection Project with the US Army Corps of Engineers, according to a press release from US Representative Robin Kelly, who represents the 2nd congressional district of Illinois, who called the point “magnificent.”
“It’s a gem in the city, and we should do everything we can to restore it,” Kelly said.
Promontory Point is a 40-acre man-made peninsula on the shore of Lake Michigan between 53rd and 57th streets, according to the Promontory Point Conservancy, a community group whose mission is to “protect and preserve” the point. The limestone revetment was designed as the four or five levels of steps that dot buffs know and love by the lake that lead up to Burnham Park.
High lake levels in the 1980s led to the plan to repair and replace revetments along the entire Chicago lakefront, including Promontory Point, but many residents took issue with the replacement of historic limestone blocks with concrete. Several community groups came together in 2006 and called for an alternative that would hopefully preserve the point’s original limestone, but no funding has been made available to continue these efforts so far.
Kelly submitted the request for funding in May as one of 15 community service projects in her district that she has put on the Congressional table this year. She said the Chicago Park District presented the proposal and determined the amount needed for the study, which is $550,000.
More than 75 proposals were submitted to Kelly, and she selected the 15 this year “based on need and impact for the communities she represents,” according to the press release.
Kelly said she walked around Promontory Point in late 2012, before she was elected to Congress, with Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th, who gave her a tour and who Kelly says has been a “warrior for this project”.
Once funding is approved, Kelly said, the money will go to the Army Corps, which will lead the study. Kelly said she was “optimistic” about the approval as the last 10 projects she submitted have been approved, bringing more than $6.7 million in federal funds to her district.
Other projects to be funded this year include improvements to South Shore Hospital, gun violence prevention and street lighting improvements.
Don Lamb is an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago and a member of the Promontory Point Conservancy. Lamb said he has been involved in saving the point since around 2005. He said the point is “an incredibly unique and special place” for the South Side and the whole city and is finally seeing some light at the end of it. a long tunnel to preserve it. .
“It has yet to be passed by Congress and signed by the President, but I feel more optimistic now than in 16 years that Promontory Point will be saved,” Lamb said.