Bluff Improvements

From 2019 to 2022, the Park District will be restoring and stabilizing the bluff against erosion across all five beaches, improving access at Tower Road Beach, and repairing retaining walls at Lloyd and Maple.

Lloyd Beach

Bluff restoration efforts were completed at Lloyd in two phases from 2017 to 2021. Maintenance of the new bluff vegetation will be ongoing for the next three years.

Phase 1: Bluff restoration in the upper park area (removed invasive vegetation, planted new native vegetation, conducted controlled burns)

Phase 2: Bluff restoration in the lower park areas and new retaining wall (reinforce against erosion, plant native vegetation)

Tower Road Beach

Bluff restoration efforts and access improvements were completed at Tower from 2017 to 2021:

  • New staircase from parkland to beach
  • New ADA lookout at top of bluff
  • New overlook platform along staircase
  • Upper parking lot entry plaza and sidewalk renovations
  • Bluff restoration (reinforced against erosion, removed invasive vegetation, planted new native vegetation)

Maintenance of the new bluff vegetation will be ongoing for the next three years.

Maple Street Beach

Bluff restoration efforts were completed at Maple from 2019 to 2021. A new boardwalk was installed and the existing gabion retaining wall was repaired.

Maintenance of the new bluff vegetation will be ongoing for the next three years.

Elder + Centennial Beaches

Staff are currently working to design and engineer a new breakwater system and bluff improvements at both beaches. Updates will be posted to this page as progress is made.

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

Bluff Diagram

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.

Tower Erosion

Tower Wall







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.

Tower Bridge Rendering


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 old access stairs were 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 the bluff restoration project.

img 0786 Stairwell

The stairs were replaced with a new staircase of similar size/footprint. The new stairs include longer platforms, more gradual sloping, and are raised off of the ground to minimize impact on the bluff.

An activity platform was installed along the staircase for resting, viewing the lake, and for exercise or educational programming. An ADA accessible deck was constructed at the top of the bluff with seating overlooking the lake.

Entry Plaza

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

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 old gabion wall at Maple Street Beach was constructed more than 30 years ago and had begun to show signs of weakening. Weakened areas of the wall were replaced to stabilize it and prevent future bluff erosion.

Maple Gabion Wall

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