Restoration of Jackson Park and South Shore Park long overdue

To the Editor:

In response to many interesting and noteworthy observations stated by a number of well-respected community leaders, it is our hope and prayer that JPW and Friends of the Park are truly in support of the long-overdue restoration and development efforts now taking place within Jackson Park/South Shore. Members of their of organizations have participated in numerous council meetings, forums and the transparent dissemination of all information acquired regarding restoration/development of Jackson Park and surrounding land. Unquestionably, we should welcome public debate, reasonable questions and inquiries that contribute to the composition of a positive narrative of community cooperation and collaboration for these endeavors. However, no one self-appointed or non-elected body should speak on behalf our community, unless it is truly made up of area residents, civic/social service community organizations, elected officials and vested business stakeholders.

As you well know, an overwhelming majority of community businesses, organizational stakeholders and residents support The Obama Presidential Center development, Jackson Park Golf Course restoration and the South Lakefront Framework Plan (SLFP)  implementation (SLFP original plan, circa 1999). Many are distressed about what they read in print, on blogs or social media websites and are waiting to hear or see any positive proclamation or publication from JPW and Friends of the Park. Just one positive or non-cynical press release would suffice and show goodwill towards the thousands of vested community residents and stakeholders who support the long-needed and much contemplated OPC/Jackson Park development and golf course restoration plans.

That being said, the CDOT public forums on August 23rd and 24th were extraordinarily well-executed, allowing citizens, local residents and community stakeholders to interact with Obama Foundation representatives, Chicago Park District, CDOT and Jackson Park/South Lakefront Framework Plan project leadership. CDOT put forth initial plans for area roadway improvements that will provide much needed safety and traffic flow enhancements. Proposed underpasses and additional traffic lanes are truly needed, in light of the increased traffic volume over the years and the more than 2,000 area traffic accidents between 2010 and 2016.

The Chicago Park District presented a number of well-designed plans, initial Jackson Park Golf course renderings and graphic designs that aggregate the comprehensive SLFP components on its interactive website southlakeshoreplan.com. The Chicago Parks Golf Alliance chicagoparksgolfalliance.org participation would have completed the forum’s list of project leadership participants. I hope that CPGA and 1st Tee of Greater Chicago will participate in the upcoming Chicago Park District presentations in September. Increasing youth programs, area resident support services, job creation and community economic opportunity/development should continue to be at the center of all current and future leadership discussions. The CPGA, 1st Tee of Greater Chicago, and WGA Evans Scholar Foundation Caddie programs exemplify many extraordinary opportunities for area youth.

The Obama Foundation presented updated plans that included the addition of OPC parking facilities that appeared to contribute to green-space and seamless integration between surrounding parkland. They continue to apply many truly state-of-the-art LEED/eco-friendly components to their project plans. President Obama, Michael Stautmanis and the Obama Foundation have amassed an impressive team of young professionals. Nice job Roark, Brian and Jamie!

Again, kudos to CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld, CDOT staff, Obama Foundation and Chicago Park District staff. There is an overwhelming majority of area residents and citizens of Chicago that support your tireless efforts.

Best Regards,
Al DeBonnett, Chair
Jackson Park Golf & Community Leadership Advisory Council,