Here is another voice of a resident of the South Side who describes so eloquently why she treasures our opens spaces and her views about the plans in the works for Jackson Park (published with permission of the author):
I’ve lived in Hyde Park, Kenwood, and Woodlawn since 1964–there were times when I wished we had more restaurants like I found up on the North Side of the city, but I gradually came to appreciate the relative calm and lack of congestion here on the South Side. And if I wanted to try the latest “in” place, it was easy enough to get to it.
This comes to mind because of the over-blown plans for both the Presidential Center and the Golf Course. If I want the excitement of Millennium Park, I can hop on a bus or train or drive a few miles and enjoy it all summer long and beyond…it is appropriately located near a commercial area and no one gets annoyed by the tourists and Chicagoans flocking to the park with all its exciting features and activities.
However, if I want a peaceful walk or quiet bike ride through lovely green space I can go to the wonderful parks in my own neighborhood. When my kids were young, we went to the beach or the park all the time and enjoyed innumerable picnics, pick-up baseball games, or throwing a frisbee, etc. For a while we enjoyed the annual Wooded Island Festival which helped to revitalize that special place, but only lasted for two days a year. The funding for it came from local businesses and the community came together for a great good time–leaving no trace when we went back to normal, peaceful park space.
I never wanted the OPC in the park–neither Jackson nor Washington. And I think there were many, many people in the community who agreed. I felt strongly that it should be located on vacant land on the South Side. But our voices were not heard. The decision was made by powerful people who really didn’t seem to care what the residents of the area wanted. Now we are stuck with what appears to be the abolition of “our” park as we knew and love it.
Please POWERS THAT BE: Back off from your elaborate plans. You have allowed yourselves to be carried away by visions of glory that are not welcomed by many, if not most of your neighbors. And our voices are still not being heard. Your survey, in no way, allowed for the expression of these thoughts.
I appreciate that the Obama Foundation and the Obamas themselves at least have some idealistic ideas about the use of the park. But my experience tells me that the land is fragile. And when you attract thousands and thousands of visitors, nice facilities designed with good intentions are often ruined very quickly by the inadvertent actions of people (including kids) who don’t understand the limits of usage. So many of the features that have been described may well last only a short time and then be abandoned because maintenance proves too costly. And the parking plan seems non-existent. Yet, parking is currently one of the biggest problems in the area. How could the Foundation fail to plan to pay for parking for people visiting the OPC? It makes no sense. And it is unfair to the taxpayers to expect the city to pay for its construction.
As for the golf course plans…I am still concerned for those golfers who have been playing at these courses for years and will suddenly be priced out. And meanwhile we (the communities of the South Side) will lose so much of our parks to the greed of Tiger Woods and his business associates. I think the whole golf course idea is totally motivated by profit–it has nothing to do with benefiting the people of the South Side, most of whom do not play golf but do enjoy their parks.
Long ago I read the book “Forever Open, Free, and Clear” by Lois Wille, published by U. of C. Press, about the struggle to create and sustain the Lakefront parks for the people. I still believe in that philosophy and feel that it made an extraordinary contribution to making Chicago a great city. I hope people can find a copy at the library and read it.
I’m sure this letter will be ignored by the people I would like to reach. I have tried to attend some meetings but always have been told there is no space left. I have tried to write, but have gotten no response. So I am pretty discouraged about having a voice in the neighborhoods that my family has lived in for five generations.
(Photo by Marc Monaghan, published here.)