Who Owns the Expanding Lakeshore at the Wilmette Temple ?

An interesting development on the Lake Michigan shoreline adjacent to the Baha’i Temple at Wilmette is presenting a challenge to the Wilmette Park District and the Baha’is of the United States.

Over the past 40 years what used to be merely a thin sandy beachfront has grown to become about two acres of land. That’s large enough to fit two football fields or more than 87,000 square feet.

The issue hinges on whether the new land was created as a result of natural processes or whether it was man-made. If it is deemed to be natural, then the Baha’is will continue to have ownership of it. If it is shown to be a result of artificial origin, then the it will default to the state of Illinois.

To view a larger aerial view of the area with the disputed lakefront area marked by a red rectangle, click the image below:

Wilmette Beachfront Dispute

What complicates the situation further is that the Army Corps of Engineers dredged up sand from the lake and deposited on the south beach in 1976 and 1978 with the express purpose of expanding the beach area. Another similar project was done in 1980.

The size and location of the new real estate makes it very valuable. Especially as a de facto expansion of the Sheridan Shores Yacht Club. There has been no official move by the Wilmette Park District to claim ownership. That would most probably begin a lengthy legal dispute.

Wilmette Lake Michigan

For more information, see this recent Chicago Tribune article.

  • Bird

    Kind of sad the Bahai’s don’t want to let the public use it for a beach.  More exposure to the Faith.  That’s just too corporate for me.  I’m not a beach front land owner so I don’t know what I would do. I would not want the public to trash my yard, so to speak, but If I were a business I would sure want to attract people to my store…

  • Baquia

    Bird, there is no indication that the Baha’is don’t want to let the public use the beach. All they are saying is that legally they own it. The Baha’i temple grounds are open to the public free of charge.

  • Nardaf

    I, frankly, am appalled at the WPD’s arrogant grandiosity to grab this piece of land! The WPD can’t even effectively monitor the south end of Gillson, now they want to manage the harbor, and grab a piece of beach from the Baha’i. I want to know where all that money is supposed to come from for upgrading the harbor infrastructure (for the benefit of very few), or how they propose access to the Baha’i beach.

    I am not a Baha’i but I live 2 blocks from the temple on Sheridan Road. We enjoy the peace and tranquility of the temple grounds and the temple itself. Baha’i is a very, very good neighbor, and a very responsible steward of the beautiful piece of real estate they own at the Wilmette lakefront.  I would not want that peace and beauty destroyed by noisy beachgoers, port-a-potties, noise, litter, and so on.

    I don’t think the WPD thought that idea quite through. How will they provide parking and access to this beach? How about access for resuers, such as police, fire dept, WPD employees etc???

    I think Baha’i lawyers should fight that land grab vigorously. After all, the temple (and its surroundings, I suppose) have landmark status (or are even on the national register of historic places?)—there’s no way I would want the WPD get a hold of that beach and destroy it!!

  • Bird

    Nardaf, thank you for your post.  That is why consultation is so important.  To point out the care of that the Bahai’s use in managing the properties is a wise obsevation. I don’t think the Bahai’s will have to fight hard to get what is already owned.  I was really refreshed again by your perspective.  How blessed you are to see it everyday.  By all means drive up and share your support, guests are treated with the same respect as the gardens…