Hours after the body of 18-year-old Ebrahim Akhoon surfaced in Wilmette Harbor Aug. 17, the Winnetka Park Board approved more barriers to the closed beach from which he went missing.
In the following days, the added fencing and signage were installed at the top of the bluff bordering Elder Lane Park.
The Winnetka Park District closed Elder Lane Beach prior to the summer, citing dangerous conditions of the eroded beachfront. Akhoon and two friends reportedly accessed the beach in the early hours of Aug. 15, when Akhoon went in the water from the beach’s pier and did not resurface, according to previous Record reporting.
Two days later the Park Board unanimously approved the added security measures to restrict access to the beach.
Superintendent of Parks Costa Kutulas presented the staff recommendation to the commissioners, saying the district can use fencing leftover from a failed attempt to contain the dog park at Centennial Beach.
The district also purchased and placed eight signs that announce the beach’s closure, officials said.
About 50 feet of new fencing extends from the edge of the park playground to the park’s south border, which is also the property line for 261 Sheridan Road. A portion of the fence crosses an beach-access drive and features a chain-locked gate. The drive can be accessed by local emergency personnel and park district officials.
The fencing also turns east at the property line and runs about 30 feet until it hits thick foliage
While the new measures are more elaborate, Kutulas said they will not stop all access to the beach, most notably from individuals walking along the shoreline from the north or south of Elder Lane Beach.
Prior to the security additions, the access drive was not blocked off. It leads down to a beach-level ramp that is chained off. The staircase to the beach has been barricaded.
Kutulas told commissioners on Aug. 17 that the district has previously attempted to add construction fencing as barriers to access the closed beach, but “they were pulling it down daily.”
Before the measure passed, Commissioner Cynthia Rapp asked staff if more measures could be placed closer to the beachfront. Kutulas said staff believes a higher barrier is more effective because it is more visible.
Commissioner Colleen Root asked about additional police patrols of the area, and Kutulas responded that is now an expectation.
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