Benign neglect has not helped Jackson Park

To the Editor:

Ms. Newhouse is correct (Herald, March 2, 2016). The Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary occupies a significant portion of Wooded Island in Jackson Park, and almost all of the park is a haven for migratory and resident birds.
Squirrels and other mammals, turtles, fishes, and a vast array of invertebrates — insects, crayfish, worms thrive there despite the temporary disruption of Project 120.  They will continue to do so.

Benign neglect has not helped Jackson Park, nor will it. Over the years, non-indigenous  plants and trees, including buckthorn, white poplar and garlic mustard took over woodland, grassy fields, and lagoons, making the park unsuitable, even unlivable, for many native species.

On a broader scale, benign neglect led to the breakdown of physical structures — roofs of buildings decayed, and concrete walls crumbled. Benches, walkways, and playgrounds, even our beloved Darrow Bridge succumbed to the powerful forces of nature.  And, when a park’s superstructure is neglected, at what point does benign neglect morph into overt abuse?

All park-goers have seen the results of such abuse — accumulation of filth in open areas and underused buildings, deliberately ruined benches and park equipment, damaged and often destroyed trees and other vegetation, and the too-common practices of trading in drugs and sex.

Project 120 addresses all of these issues.  Experts in park history, ecology, and geology are already improving the ecological balance within the park.  The park’s infrastructure will be stabilized with improved walkways and bridges so that once again it is safe to look for birds, engage in photography, or simply stroll in a superb natural garden. “Neglect” must no longer be a part of Jackson Park.  Parks must be safe, beautiful places for all to enjoy, respect, and become a part of.

Project 120’s organizers have held several public meetings to encourage open-ended discussion about the future of Jackson Park, Washington Parks, and the Midway, most recently on Feb. 8 at the Washington Park Refectory.  These meetings are publicly announced — all concerned individuals are welcome to attend.

Ms. Newhouse, please visit Jackson Park to see it change and grow.  You will be impressed with what is there, and what it promises to become.

Guided tours of Wooded Island take place the last Saturday of each month, beginning at 10 a.m., at the south bridge of the Island. We hope to see you on March 26.

Frances S. Vandervoort
Nature Trail Coordinator
Jackson Park Advisory Council