Parks & Rec Director Joe McRae Discusses Lagoon Improvements

On Tuesday, April 22, Joe McRae extended his long workday as Evanston’s new Director of Parks, Recreation & Community Services to join SEA’s monthly Board meeting.

Lakefront construction in progress. ©2014 Ted Glasoe

Mr. McRae discussed the $1.4 million, yearlong project to widen permeable pathways and improve patio spaces and the stage area.  The plan also includes much-needed improvements to the plumbing and mechanical systems that control the lagoon’s filtration and fountains.  McCrae said that no trees would be removed unless they are sick, dead or have been infected by the Emerald Ash Borer.  McRae, an Evanston resident and lakefront lover, called the Dawes Park lagoon his “Zen place” where he and all Evanston residents can enjoy all that the city has to offer:  beauty, nature, and community.  

Planned signage for the renovated lagoon

Planned signage for the renovated lagoon

With improvements funded in large part by a $500,000 donation from the Arrington Foundation, the lagoon will be renamed in memory of W. Russell Arrington, who long represented Evanston in the Illinois House and Senate.  A permanent sign will be installed, as shown in this rendering.

Other funding will come from a state grant, and the city’s capital improvement program.
A large area around the lagoon is fenced off for construction for the rest of the summer, with an opening planned for Fall 2014.  McRae said that an alternative location and plans for 4th of July festivities are being discussed among multiple city departments.


It was a pleasure for our Board to have Joe McRae visit with us.  We appreciate his candor, honesty, humor, and enthusiasm for our beautiful city and its 92 public parks.


Posted on May 7, 2014 .