Chicago Beach Named a Great Lakes Best

July 04, 2011

While the Chicago River has been getting a bad rap lately, a Chicago beach is earning accolades.

Oak Street Beach along Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago has been named one of the Top 5 Great Lakes Beaches by an expert nicknamed Dr. Beach.

It’s at No. 5, but it’s still impressive. Dr. Beach is really Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, Professor and Director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University.

Here’s what he had to say about Chicago’s stellar beach:

“This 26-mile lakefront is used by cyclists, runners and parents with strollers; the fine-sand beach has lifeguards, making it a safe beach. This strand of sand provides stunning views of the historic architecture of Chicago and Lake Michigan.”

Leatherman also recommends taking public transportation to get there due to limited street parking.

Dr. Beach determines the best beaches by rating 50 physical factors at each beach, including sand softness, water quality, ambiance, amenities, smell, noise, safety and cleanliness.

The other top four Great Lakes Beaches, according to Dr. Beach:

1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Lake Michigan, Michigan

2. Presque Isle State Park, Lake Erie, Pennsylvania

3. Sand Point Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior, Michigan

4. Bayfield Main Beach, Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada

Last year, America’s beaches posted their second-highest number of closings and advisory days in more than two decades, according to the National Resources Defense Council.

The group’s annual report revealed that 15 percent of Great Lakes beach water exceeded public health standards in 2010. Nationwide, it was only 8 percent.

Public health has also been a concern for the Chicago River, which was recently listed on America’s Most Endangered Rivers list. The U.S. EPA has ordered Illinois officials to clean it up.

During a town meeting on Facebook this week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hinted that he wants to make the Chicago River a priority.

“We have a great river, it hasn’t really been paid attention to and I want to make that change,” he said. “It’s a beautiful city and we don’t want to hide it from anybody.”

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