Thursday, October 8, 2009

Simmons Island Beach and Art

The only way that Simmons Island Beach and Art are related is that I read articles about them both this morning. I am still a newspaper reader, and although I find lots of good information on the internet, I still like to read the newspaper.

The second topic first. Art. A few days ago, I wrote about ArtPrize, the art competition currently taking place in Grand Rapids, MI. The Arts section of the New York Times had a story about the exhibit and although Mary Gillis, the artist I was featuring was not included in the piece, it is still worth looking at slide show of some of the other installations. In addition, it’s always nice see something in the NYT about art in a Great Lakes State. Art does happen west of the Hudson River.

The other article was one of local interest. The headline in the Kenosha News read, “City Looks to Enhance Lakefront.” The City of Kenosha wants to draw more people to the lakefront, especially because so much of the current commercial development is in the western part of the city. Some suggestions for increasing the number of visitors, which is estimated to be about 20,000 per month now, are to improve the railroad station ( I am not sure that will do anything toward this goal but I agree it should be done), streetscape designs along the main thoroughfares entering the lakefront area, and better marketing.

Mayor Keith Bosman would like to see more traffic on Simmons Island and its beach. As a frequenter of that beach, I know it is under utilized, although in the past few years, the number of beach goers has increased. This year doesn’t count because the weather was cool, but I think there are ways to improve use of the beach.

For one, it could be cleaned more often, and more waste containers provided. The city has fixed up the historic bathhouse a little and there are now restroom facilities and a foot washing station – but I am not sure how many people know about it. The city has also made it difficult for anyone interested in opening a concession stand. The one year that one was open, people purchased snacks there, but this year it wasn’t there.

Why is North Beach in Racine so popular? Could it be that it is clean, has concessions, washrooms, has adequate parking and a great children’s playground? Granted, the sand beach at Simmons Island is smaller, but the park is not. I don’t think it would take much to improve attendance but you have to give people a reason to go there. On a hot summer afternoon, a significant number of cars in the Simmons Island parking lot sport Illinois license plates. What do the people of Illinois know that the people of Kenosha don’t? Or are the people of Kenosha all up at the Racine beach?

By the way, the Simmons Bedding, for whom the island was named, also made the New York Times this week. The company, which has changed hands many times since leaving Kenosha, has declared bankruptcy. The NYT article is a good analysis of how this happened to Simmons as well as many other companies. It’s not a pretty picture.

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