Put all Jackson Park plans on hold

To the Editor:

I writing because I am deeply concerned about the future of Jackson Park with regard to the expansion and blending of the Jackson Park golf course with that of the South Shore Cultural Center and the intention to make them worthy of PGA tournaments. In addition, I am concerned about the impact that the Obama Presidential Center will have on the surrounding community with regard to proposed traffic patterns and parking.

First, the plans for the golf course are troubling because the proposed expansion will mean the destruction of established and mature nature areas. This is senseless and troubling on many levels. The City has already spent millions on these areas which have promoted area wildlife such as beavers, herons, Monarch butterflies and countless other species of migrating birds who use the area for rest and food as well as others who now call this area home. It would be tragic to see these nature reserves and established ecosystems uprooted for a golf course which would benefit a select few—those who do not likely live in the area but who can afford to pay the green fees. What a privilege to look up from your tee on the 18th hole to see the beauty of Downtown Chicago.

As for the OPC and the impending debacle of traffic and parking, I can only say that I would have hoped for a more inviting aesthetic for the building and location of it as a whole. Planners should be aware of the congestion and confusion this will bring to Stony Island—the site of Brett Harte Elementary School, U of C Early Childhood Center, the YMCA, and Hyde Park High School making dismissal times more chaotic than they already are. Where is the transparency? What will these plans mean in terms of cost to taxpayers? Why the rush to approve the plans by October?

I am begging those in charge of the parks, our civic leaders, and other decision makers to place these plans on hold until there is substantial community input with regard to timelines, budget and protections in place for the nature reserves in Jackson Park. These areas are important to the surrounding community and it is unconscionable for these “improvements” to be implemented without community input. I as well as many others will miss the opportunity to use Jackson Park nature reserves for walks, picnics, birding, and enjoying the green spaces in the City where Daniel Burnham and other early City planners intended the lakefront to be held and enjoyed by all citizens—not just a select few.

Yours very truly,
Janet Kemper