County will not pursue Hovland Dock project at this time

Brian Larsen

A decision to abandon, at least for now, attempts to save the 113-yearold decaying Hovland Dock means Lake Superior will most likely claim the crumbling structure sooner than later. How soon that will be is anybody’s guess, but the structure has been in need of repairs for decades and each year the timbers and concrete that make up the dock suffer further decay and erosion.

The dock and surrounding property are owned by the county and are the county’s responsibility, but the cost to repair the historic structure has been estimated into the many hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Over the last couple of decades, there have been several attempts to secure funding to fix the dock, but all failed. Before Cook County Land Commissioner/Parks & Trails Director Lisa Kerr’s involvement, the most recent push came from the North Shore Scenic Drive Council in 2015, which led a preliminary effort to identify improvements that could be made to the Hovland Dock Wayside rest area. That attempt was met with local resistance from people who were worried about increased traffic on the road and added people in the area, and after three meetings, the plan to upgrade the wayside ended as well.

Over the last six months Kerr met with the Hovland community (and those interested in the dock) to see what concern there is in preserving it. After the last meeting held at the Hovland community town hall, Kerr said she was putting together a survey for the public. This past week she released the results of the 10 question survey.

“The results have been summarized for the Hovland Dock Project Survey,” Kerr wrote. “The support for the project is still mixed and so without majority community support the county will not be pursuing the project at this time.”

More than half of the 100 responses (53) Kerr received came from people who don’t live in Hovland.

When asked, “Do you support Cook County’s efforts to rehabilitate and secure the dock?” 63 said no, while 37 voted yes. The results were almost the same (64-36) when asking if there was support to placing one to two picnic tables at the site.

Sixty-four of the respondents said they live on or own property on either Chicago Bay Road or Stonegate Road. Many of those people were worried there would be increased traffic on Chicago Bay Road if the dock and area were refurbished.

One idea to mitigate traffic on Chicago Bay Road was to make Hovland Town Hall the central area to access the dock, with a trail leading to the wayside rest area, but 73 respondents were against both of those ideas.

Currently, there is a historical marker that tells of the “Old Dog Trail” next to the dock. Most of it is dedicated to the memory of legendary mail carrier John Beargrease. But when asked, “Would you want to include historical interpretation going back to pre-settlement/dock of the Hovland area?” 63 percent said no, and 37 percent said yes.

Question 10 asked, “What is your biggest concern going forward regarding any potential dock project?” Some of the responses are as follows: “I love the dock how it is; It is a large part of history of the area, and it would be a shame if it were lost; Keeping it natural…no more man-made structures; I would want it left the way it is. Don’t make it a destination. It’s for peace and quiet. People have been stopping there for decades without any problem.

Less is more. There is nothing wrong with it. We love it as it is.

Please don’t mess with our memories; the cost is too great. You can’t re-create history. The current dock, even if it is repaired, has no commercial value; problems; it’s a large part of the history of the area, and it would be a shame if it were lost; Spending my tax money on another bridge to nowhere; I don’t believe there are adequate funds to improve the dock itself or to maintain area if it improved. I worry about added traffic on the road.”

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