LAKEWOOD – The 40-year-old building at West Beach was torn down last week to make room for a new beach house.
The $1.7 million Crystal Lake Park District renovation project should make a day at the beach a better experience, Park Planner Ann Viger said.
West Beach, at 2330 Lake Ave. in Lakewood, is popular with village residents, although it attracts significantly fewer visitors than nearby Main Beach in Crystal Lake.
The park’s 3,200-square-foot main building was outdated. Built in 1972, it lacked features that modern planners consider essential, such as showers. For years, patrons used a hose to wash off. The building also didn’t comply with all building and health codes and wasn’t handicapped-accessible, Viger said.
The new beach house will have improved bathrooms with showers.
“It may seem mundane, but it’s important to families,” Viger said.
The building will have a dedicated office and first-aid space, and additional picnic and seating areas with outdoor vending. The structure itself should fit in better with the character of the neighborhood, Viger said.
In coming weeks, crews will began taking down the existing steel sea wall. It will be replaced with a stone sea wall.
While welcomed, the project has inconvenienced some area residents and beachgoers. Construction forced the park district to close West Beach at the end of July, a month earlier than usual, which disappointed some residents.
Others have complained about temporary fencing put up around the site. They felt it made the roadway virtually impassable for bikers and runners by forcing drivers to cross over the center line to avoid pedestrians on the narrow shoulder.
Viger said the fencing was necessary for safety reasons.
“It’s an inconvenience, but in the end it should be a great improvement for the community,” she said.
Lakewood Village President Erin Smith said many residents are looking forward to next summer.
“We’re thrilled at the money the Crystal Lake Park District is investing in Lakewood,” she said. “West Beach is an important amenity for our community.”
Construction is expected to continue through February. Updates will be posted on the park district’s website, www.crystallakeparks.org. The project is to be finished by March 1.