Bluff Improvements

Throughout 2019 and 2020, the Park District will be restoring the bluff across all five beaches, improving access at Tower Road Beach, and repairing retaining walls at Lloyd and Maple. For detailed information on each of these improvements, click the measure below.


Winter 2017: Trim overgrown areas of the bluff and begin removing invasive vegetation (complete)

June through October 2019*: Design, engineering, and permitting (in process)

November 2019 through 2020*: Construction

*Dates are estimated and may change.

Bluff Restoration

The bluff is the area of the park spanning from the edge of the table land down to the sand.

The bluffs along Lake Michigan are vital ecosystems that support plant and wildlife not found elsewhere. Because of the bluff’s juxtaposition along the lake and generally steep landscape, it is subject to erosion from stormwater, waves, wind, and rain.

Overtime, these vital ecosystems can become overgrown and infiltrated with invasive species that inhibit the growth of native understory plants whose deep root systems play a crucial role in preventing the oversaturation of soil and stability of the bluff. Coupled with improper drainage, the bluff becomes unstable and more susceptible to erosion — an issue that is currently affecting the bluffs along our five beaches.

Visible ditch created by stormwater runoff shows evidence of weakened bluff and drainage issues at Tower

wall staining and perpetually wet walkway show evidence of drainage issues at Tower

While bluff erosion is a natural process that can’t be stopped, it can be slowed by implementing the following restoration measures:

  • Removing invasive plants and trees to give understory vegetation room, sunlight, and nutrients to grow
  • Replanting deep-rooted native understory vegetation to create a habitat crucial for bird and insect life and make the bluff more stable
  • Improving drainage to reduce oversaturation of the soil and erosion from stormwater

In addition to stabilizing the bluff and returning them to their natural state, these measures will make the bluff more attractive and enhance the views of the lake from the table land.

In 2017, Park District staff began the process of removing dead, dying, and invasive trees and understory vegetation at Tower Road Park/Beach and Lloyd Beach.

Lloyd bluff before removal of invasives

Lloyd bluff after removal of invasives

In November of 2019, the remaining invasive trees and understory vegetation will be removed. Native understory vegetation will be planted and drainage improved. All healthy native trees that currently reside on the bluff will remain. The process is expected to be complete by the end of 2020.

Sample restored bluff

Sample restored bluff

Tower Road Beach Access

Staircase & Platform Overlook

Based on community engagement conducted during the development of the Winnetka Waterfront 2030 plan, residents expressed a significant desire to improve the access stairs leading from the park to the beach at Tower Road. The current access stairs are cracked and uneven due to natural slope movement and erosion, causing them to be difficult to traverse. This infrastructure replacement was identified in the district’s Long Range Plan and deferred to coincide with this bluff restoration project.

The existing stairs will be replaced with a new staircase with built-in seat walls. The new staircase will be similar in size/footprint and location to the existing staircase, but will include longer platforms and more gradual sloping to make them easier to traverse. Additionally, the staircase will be “floating” or raised off of the ground to allow for a less invasive approach to construction.

A new platform with seating will be installed along the staircase overlooking the beach. This platform can be used for resting, viewing the lake, and for exercise or educational programming.

Entry Plaza

The entry plaza to the upper parking lot will be renovated to improve access and enhance the appearance of the park site. This plaza will include wayfinding and park signage and will serve as the entry point to the park and new access stairs.

Retaining Walls

Lloyd Retaining Wall

The existing retaining wall along the access road to the boat launch at Lloyd is in need of repair. Due to natural aging and pressure exerted on the wall overtime, some areas of the wall have begun to crack and lean, weakening the overall structural integrity of the wall.

Staff are currently working with structural and civil engineers to find the best solution to repair the wall. This solution will be finalized by September 2019.

Maple Gabion Wall

A gabion wall is a type of retaining wall made out of broken rock and mesh baskets. They have a more natural appearance than concrete structures and are equally effective at stabilizing soil and preventing bluff erosion. The existing gabion wall at Maple Street Beach was constructed more than 30 years ago and has begun to show signs of weakening. Weakened areas of the wall will be replaced to stabilize it and prevent future bluff erosion.


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