Questions about Jackson Park Golf Course

To the Editor: 

Surprise! You no doubt know by now that our Mayor and his hand-picked Park District CEO Mike Kelly have announced a surprise holiday gift to us all – the pending establishment of a public/private partnership to raise $30 million to convert the existing Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses into a single 18-hole professional championship-caliber golf course by 2020.

Questions abound:

  • Transparency?  Although rumors about this have been floating, where was the transparent public process?
  • Community input?  If this were to happen, it would have a massive impact on the park and surrounding community, especially in South Shore.  What does the community want?
  • Process?  While the announcement has the air of a “done deal,” can the Mayor and his appointed Park District CEO really do anything they want in Jackson Park, as appears to have been the case with the Yoko Ono Sky Landing sculpture?  Wouldn’t this need, at the minimum, approval by the Park District Board, albeit also hand-picked by the Mayor?
  • Priorities?  Mike Kelly says that the goal is to use $6m of taxpayer money.  Why should this take priority over other pressing Jackson Park needs?  A new or at least renovated field house?  Repair of broken paths?  Accessible bathrooms?  What about adverse impacts on the existing golfers, who could well be priced out, and on other uses and users in the rest of the park?
  • Environmental impact?  And how about an environmental impact analysis?  Golf course construction typically means killing all existing plant material and taking the area down to bare soil.  A heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers is required to keep golf courses in championship shape.  All of these factors need to be explored, and publicly discussed.

To sum up: While not yet a certainty, this appears to be yet another step in a money-driven process of divvying up historical Jackson Park into segments without regard to the integrity of the Park, to the current, diverse local uses and users, or to the long-term impact on the community.  Instead of moving ahead, action on this project should be halted until there has been a unified, comprehensive planning process addressing the future of the entire Park, including the Obama Presidential Library – a planning process that is transparent and includes robust and substantive community engagement.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Coordinators
Jackson Park Watch
http://jacksonparkwatch.org