Beach attendance down in Lake Forest, up in Lake Bluff

A cooler summer — and even colder water temperatures — have painted a different attendance picture at beaches in Lake Forest, Lake Bluff and the Lake Bluff community pool.

Attendance at Lake Bluff’s beach and pool is up, while Lake Forest’s beach attendance is down significantly.

Through July, there have been 14,504 visits to Sunrise Park Beach in Lake Bluff, up from the 13,941 visits for the same time period in 2013 — a 4 percent increase.

The news isn’t as good in Lake Forest.

“We’re down considerably from last year,” Jeff Wait, Lake Forest Park and Recreation’s Superintendent of Special Facilities said of attendance at Forest Park Beach so far this summer.

Attendance has dropped 14 percent below last year’s levels.

Lake Forest had 44,263 visits last year compared to 38,463 this year for June and July.

Wait doesn’t expect much difference during August, traditionally the hottest month in the summer.

“There’s a couple of things at play here,” he said.

Air temperature is one. The daily average air temperature for June and July 2013 was 72.5 degrees, while this year has averaged about 71 degrees, according to Wait.

But he believes the biggest contributor to lower attendance is the colder lake water.

Last summer’s average daily water temperature at Forest Park Beach in Lake Forest was 64.5 degrees. This summer summer has been a much-more-uncomfortable 58 degrees, according to Wait.

“Five or six degrees difference is huge,” Wait said. “It’s just too cold for most people to be swimming. It’s bitter.”

The Fourth of July, typically a big day at the beach for both residents and non-residents alike, saw a big drop in beach-goers — a third less — in Lake Forest.

This year there were 990 people at the beach on the national holiday, compared to 1,575 in 2013, Wait said.

This year’s Fourth of July air temperature this year was 74 degrees and the water 58 degrees. Last year, the air temperature on the holiday was slightly higher, 78 degrees, but the water temperature was 65 degrees.

Lower attendance at Forest Park Beach has resulted in lower entry-fee revenue from non-residents. Beach attendance fees dropped from $8,238 in 2013 to $5,346 in 2014 for the same time period.

Sailboat, kayak and paddleboard rentals likewise have fallen, Wait said.

“People are staying away,” he said. “It’s just too cold.”

Lake Forest Park & Recreation day camps have still spent their usual days at the beach, but the camp-goers have been busy elsewhere on the sprawling 29-acre lakefront park.

Red-flag days — when no one is allowed in the water due to high waves, rip currents or high bacteria count — are up this year, which could account for some of the drop in attendance, according to Wait.

There have been 11 red-flag days this year, compared to eight for the same time period last year.

In Lake Bluff, the attendance totals have not been affected by colder lake water and cooler air temperatures.

Through July, there were more visits to Sunrise Park Beach and 6,338 visits to the Lake Bluff Park District pool — better than last year’s attendance at this point in the summer, according to Jeff Spillman, Communications and Promotions Manager for the Lake Bluff Park District.

Some of this year’s increase is due to fewer closures due to riptides, bacteria count and rain at Sunrise Park and Beach.

“We are very pleased with our attendance especially with a cooler season,” Lake Bluff Park District Executive Director Ron Salski said. “The beach continues to be one of the most popular recreation and leisure locations in the community.”

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