The community wants a say in changes for Jackson Park

To the Editor:

I share the concerns raised by Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid in their January 20 letter to the Herald. I live in the 5th Ward, where I have lived for 33 years. During the fall, I wrote both Alderman Hairston and the Project 120 team to raise similar issues, but neither the alderman nor Project 120 has replied to my letters.

  1. The changing nature of the plans for the park and the secretive manner of their deciding. We were told at the outset that the effort was to restore Wooded Island to native plants, but it now appears that we are excluded from the park while we wait for Japanese cherry trees to mature.
  2. We would like to see all environmental impact statements for noise pollution, loss of protected species, and effect on water quality. Before Wooded Island was closed, we watched in horror as thousands of fish died after poison was put in the water. What effect has that poison, and the death of the fish, had on the turtles and birds that also use the island?
  3. What park usage surveys were done before construction began? The southeast part of Jackson Park, near the bowling green, is where many South Siders come in the summer for picnics and family reunions. There are few parks on the South Side where low-income families can easily park or come by public transportation. How will removing all that parking and picnicking space affect them?
  4. Noise pollution from a music pavilion is a serious concern for those of us within a half-mile radius of the proposed pavilion. On the three or four times a year that private parties use amplifiers in the parks, the noise is a major irritant. We were told at the January 17 community meeting that the Burnham plan included a music pavilion, but in Daniel Burnham’s day, there were no giant amplifiers. Music could be heard by the people who came to hear it, not by everyone within ten or twelve blocks of the pavilion.
  5. Many of the Project 120 members do not live in the area. I understand that some are in Wilmette. Perhaps if they began imagining closing off Gillson Park and building an amphitheater there whose sound would affect people on Michigan Avenue in Wilmette, they could understand why there is resistance in Hyde Park to the Phoenix Pavilion.
  6. The Clarence Darrow Bridge has been fenced off for at least four if not five years. It is disingenuous to claim that it is not used and therefore not worth repairing when, in fact, it has not been possible to use it for that length of time.
  7. People come from all over the world to view the migratory birds in Bobolink Meadow and Wooded Island. Indeed, they’ve been written up in various airline magazines, including an article I myself wrote for British Airways three years ago. Shutting off these parks and destroying the habitats has an adverse effect on our local economy. In my own nearly daily walks around the locked up Wooded Island I have encountered numerous foreigners, puzzled that this tourist attraction is shut to them.

It is frustrating to have no voice in these matters, and to have my letters to my own alderman, and to the Project 120 staff, completely ignored. I am grateful to Ms. Nelms and Ms. Schmid for finding a platform to elevate these issues in front of the whole community.

Sincerely,

Sara N. Paretsky