With Memorial Day weekend approaching, towns and subdivisions across McHenry County are getting set to welcome people back to their beaches for the summer.
Despite some either reeling from staffing shortages or lower attendance last summer, park districts and recreation departments in McHenry County for the most part are expecting a stable season, with some offering expanded programming.
Beach season typically runs from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, which falls on Sept. 5 this year.
|Beach||Address||Dates and Hours|
|Crystal Lake Main Beach||300 Lakeshore Drive, Crystal Lake||May 28 - Sept. 5 (Hours vary by day). More hours available on Crystal Lake Park District’s website|
|Crystal Lake West Beach||2330 Lake Avenue, Crystal Lake||June 4 - Aug. 12 (11 a.m. to dusk)|
|Three Oaks Recreation Area||5517 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake||May 28 - July 31 (10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.), Aug. 1 - Labor Day (10 a.m. to 7 p.m.)|
|Dorothy Court Beach||209 Dorothy Court, Island Lake||Memorial Day - Labor Day (dusk to dawn)|
|Veterans Park Beach||316 Island Drive, Island Lake||Memorial Day - Labor Day (dusk to dawn)|
|Butch Hagele Beach||71 Hilltop Drive, Lake in the Hills||Memorial Day - Labor Day (sunrise to sunset)|
|Indian Trail Beach||228 Indian Trail, Lake in the Hills||Memorial Day - Labor Day (sunrise to sunset)|
|Morrison Park Beach||124 Lake Shore Drive, Lakemoor||Memorial Day - Labor Day (sunrise to sunset)|
|Petersen Park Beach||4300 Petersen Park Road, McHenry||June 2 - Aug. 7 (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.)|
|Oakwood Hills North Beach||100 N Shore Drive, Oakwood Hills||Memorial Day - Labor Day (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.)|
|Oakwood Hills South Beach||2 Lakeshore Drive, Oakwood Hills||Memorial Day - Labor Day (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.)|
Crystal Lake will open its Main Beach this Memorial Day weekend, while West Beach will open June 4, said Heidi Stolt, recreation aquatics supervisor. Staffing for the beaches this summer, particularly when it comes to lifeguards, has been strong, she said, which is a change from last year.
“We have lots of staff,” Stolt said. “We’ve been extremely fortunate with our lifeguards.”
Stolt said she expects the beaches this year to be busier than last summer, which saw some hesitant to go out following the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. Last year saw more than 26,700 people visit Main Beach.
“I think people will be less cautious about going out to public spaces, even though we had a great summer last year” she said.
The city of McHenry, which has Petersen Park Beach opening Thursday, has had a bit of a different experience the past couple of years, as attendance saw a sharp increase throughout the pandemic, said Nicole Thompson, athletics and aquatics supervisor.
Following 2019, which saw a little under 1,600 people come out to the beach, 2020 saw attendance eclipse 2,200. That number rose even higher last year, hitting almost 2,400, Thompson said. This year she’s expecting it to stay relatively the same as the past couple of years.
“We opened [in 2020] as soon as the state allowed it,” Thompson said. “I think the biggest reason [for our attendance] is our beachfront is pretty open, so people could spread out.”
For several beaches across the area, attendance in 2021 surpassed 2019, Berggren said.
Having beaches in McHenry County can be convenient for residents so they don’t have to drive out to places like Lake Michigan, said Jaki Berggren, president of Naturally McHenry County, the county’s tourism agency.
“For residents, it adds to the quality of life,” Berggren said. “There is the option of different places to go and the amenities.”
Programming will remain much of the same for several McHenry County beaches, but the past couple of years have brought some notable changes.
Crystal Lake, for example, saw a significant increase in its boat rentals during the pandemic, Stolt said. In 2020, because of state restrictions, the park district couldn’t open the beaches, but it could offer boats, which saw a spike in use.
That trend continued into the next year as well, and so to meet the new demand, the Crystal Lake Park District purchased some new boats and paddle boards, Stolt said.
Thompson said she’s tried to offer new programming in the past, such as water yoga, but attendance wasn’t strong, she said. The newest addition in recent years are inflatables and boats, she said.
Swim and sailing lessons also are doing well, Stolt said. Crystal Lake is also offering a new social paddle club this year for people to paddle around the lake and make friends.
Kayaks and paddle boards are a “great past time,” Berggren said, as they provide people different things to do in the water. Although lounging beside it is also nice, she said.
Following some rain forecasted for Friday, weather this weekend is expected to be hot and sunny with a few clouds, according to the National Weather Service.
Both Stolt and Thompson said attendance is ultimately decided by the weather, which is part of what drives Petersen’s opening the week following Memorial Day, as the beach isn’t always warm enough, Thompson said.
“Leading up to it is just nerves,” Thompson said. “You just hope there’s no snags.”
McHenry will also not be without other options this weekend, as its Merkel Aquatic Center is opening, Thompson said.
Still, even if it’s chilly, many still come out to picnic and frequent the park, Stolt said.
“It just depends on the weather, but I think we’re going to get a good attendance on Saturday,” Stolt said. “If it’s nice out, it will be packed.”