Moments before members of an invited group honed their kayaking skills on Saturday at the Glencoe Beach, Laurie Morse of the Glencoe Community Foundation offered a simple message about Lake Michigan.
"It belongs to you," Morse told the contingent.
The Foundation-hosted morning kayak trek, which lasted about an hour, was aimed at providing perspective on how the public can access and enjoy the shoreline.
"We went out on the water because we want people to know while they have to be respectful of private property, the shoreline where the water meets the land is public," said Morse, a Foundation board member.
The Glencoe Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing life in the village, according to Morse.
Moments before people jumped into two-person red or yellow kayaks, there were instructions on paddle usage provided by two instructors from the Northwest Passage, a Wilmette-based touring company.
The kayakers were greeted with a few splashes of water as they made their way into the 60-degree waters of Lake Michigan, but soon the water was calmer, and as the group headed south, they were greeted by the sight of an osprey holding a fish in its claws.
When taking a break from paddling, the kayakers gathered close to Morse as she highlighted features of the shoreline on a sunny day amid a north-to-south breeze.
As the trip continued, the group could see private homes in the distance, the borders to the private and public beaches, the village's water treatment plant and its drainage systems, as well as parts of an old, abandoned boat lift, according to Morse. It now sits neglected, with dilapidated iron sticks coming out of the water.
Some in the group were locally elected officials who deal with beach issues from time to time.
"What struck me is the amount of village-owned beach that is difficult to access," Village Board Trustee Peter Mulvaney said after he was back on the land.
Asked for what the trip will mean for him as a village trustee, Mulvaney explained, "A better perspective on what people are asking for when they are requesting access to the lakefront."
Also hitting the water were two Glencoe Park District commissioners, who echoed Mulvaney's sentiments.
"I have a greater appreciation for the intersection between the beach and the water," said Commissioner Dudley Onderdonk, who went solo in his kayak. "I came to understand the local ecology better and some of the local land use conflicts on the lake, whether it is the construction or the outfall from drainage."
Onderdonk's fellow commissioner, Lisa Brooks, said this was her first time seeing the village from this angle, and she was glad for the opportunity.
"It is just better for us to understand what is happening to the beach and how private building impacts the entire beachfront," Brooks said. "That kind of background is good for us. It allows us to learn about our beach from an expert. That is the most important thing we learned."
Daniel I. Dorfman is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press
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