To the Editor:
For thirty years I have volunteered in Jackson Park and know and understand its characters, its history, its problems and it’s strengths. As the 24-hour media, print media, and blogosphere are putting out the stories, rumors, and accusations regularly, it is critical to separate facts from myths to clearly understand the issues.
As I understand the current envisioning planning process: we put out the initial ideas into the South Lakefront Framework Plan online (from the Obama Foundation designers, the TGR designer, and the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance) and then opened it up to the community for input so that all can help design the project by commenting and making suggestions on the website.
As the community makes its ideas and comments online, here are some of the exciting rumors out there and the dull, but actual facts:
Myth 1 – There will be a brick wall around the Golf Course so people can’t see inside.
Fact 1 – Not True. There will be an open and see through fence to keep golf balls from the course out of moving traffic, off biking paths, and out of natural areas and there will be more entrances with better paths to allow easier access to park areas.
Myth 2 – The South Shore Cultural Center natural area and most of the golf course trees will be taken out.
Fact 2 – Not True. Invasive Species trees will be removed, as we have done on Wooded Island and Bobolink Meadow. This allows room for the planting of more native species, like our new growth of Oaks, which can live for up to 400 years. Trees that incidentally are moved in the redesign are being replaced one-for-one.
The South Shore Cultural Center natural area is not being removed and a second natural area is being planted at the north end near the horse-riding ring with easy accessibility.
The current natural area has some safety issues: severe erosion of the border areas with instability of border revetments and flooding, coyotes hunting and sleeping in natural area, remote location with 5 and 6 feet tall grasses making a lone visitor not visible to the outside world. This discourages women from walking alone in this remote area. We see drug sellers distributing their product in the non-visible areas. We have mentally ill appearing homeless individuals sleeping on the benches unseen in the tall grasses and frightening early morning visitors. Non-permitted fires being set in drummers circles by the homeless for the purpose of staying warm and cooking food.
Myth 3 – The Jackson Park Bark will be closed down.
Fact 3 – As part of the Envisioning Process, JPAC has strongly requested that Jackson Park Bark stay open. The JPAC Dog Park Committee founded the Dog Park in 2011, did all the paperwork- petitions, letters, board presentations, and inspected and remodeled the two totally unused and damaged handball courts into the Jackson Park Bark. We made it a safe place for large and small dogs to run freely. Raising the $ 120,000 to $160,000 for required disease prevention equipment and safety features, we weren’t able to do, but the park district graciously allowed us to use our converted handball courts just as dogs use them all over the city. We hope with the completion of the revitalization of park, funders will be more eager to donate to build a new and even better dog park.
Myth 4 – Golfers don’t want a revitalized, restored course. Fact 4 – Golfing organizations from all over the Jackson Park Area are writing their own letters, so they will speak more factually for themselves. I wonder how many people are still playing tennis, basketball, soccer, baseball, or football on fields that are 100 years old. Still playing on the same surfaces, with the same equipment in 2017 that were installed in 1910. Jackson Park golfers think it is obvious that the aged course must be restored and revitalized or South Side golfers will continue leave the South Side course for the better equipped and laid out suburban courses. Without sufficient golfers to cover operating costs, the Jackson Park and South Shore Cultural Center Golf Courses will close. Local organizations will continue to take their golfing events to the better equipped suburban golf courses until there are so few players here who want to play the 100 year old golf courses, that both historic courses close. This leaves no golf courses available for our South Side kids and adults.
Myth 5 – South Side Youth don’t want to play golf and participate in the caddy training program, and the First Tee 7-12 year olds golf program will not invest in large numbers of South Side Kids.
Fact 5 – The CPGA is committed to offering golf to all of the high schools in the area and in connecting the grammar schools with the amazing First Tee Program no child is turned away because of inability to pay. Golf is a competitive high school sport like football, and tennis, which offers college scholarships for high school players to attend college. High school golfers play Chicago courses for free.
Myth 6 – Local golfers will be priced out of golfing in Jackson Park.
Fact 6 – Locals will be able to play golf on restored course at same or similar rates to current course rates. Those who have found the ways to walk on and play for free will probably still find free ways to play.
Myth 7 – The walking and biking paths around the courses will be closed.
Fact 7 – The walking and biking path will not be closed. It is going to be replaced and enlarged to accommodate more walkers and bikers.
Myth 8 – The 67th Street Underpass is only for golfers to get to the golf course.
Fact 8 – The 67th Street underpass simply replaces the previous 67th Street overpass that safely allowed the community to go to the 67th Street Beach. As the previous 100-year-old breakwater deteriorated and was not restored, the 67th Street Beach protective shoreline revetments washed away. Over approximately a 10 year period, from 1965 to 1975, the 67th Street Beach and shoreline park itself, washed away and the 67th Street overpass was taken down.
This beach washing away process is currently happening rapidly to South Shore Cultural Center Beach and Golf Course. If these follow the erosion pattern of the 67th Street Beach, then the SSCC Beach and part of the SSCCGolf Course will be washed away and gone in a few years. We could not find funders in1975 to donate the millions of dollars to fix the 67th Street Beach, but we HAVE the funders now who can help save South Shore Cultural Center Beach and SSCC Golf Course and valuable green and blue park space for our community. I invite any of you who would like to see the effects and process of this destruction to join our lakefront tours and see with your own eyes.
Final Myth – You can’t trust the Park District.
Final Fact – In my opinion, The New Chicago Park District is made up of the most dedicated, young, smart, responsive, hardworking and creative city employees I have known. They inspire me to work harder. Most are moms and dads, coaches, gardeners, avid sports participants, dog parents, musicians, artists and community volunteers just like us. We have one thing in common-making the parks safer and more enriching places with more positive activities for our communities. Like us, they need more money to do more projects. So they have, by necessity, become brilliant grant writers and fund raisers. I am always grateful for everything the Park District Staff has created to enrich the lives of our south side community members, particularly our children, and our future.
Thank you community, for your many ideas and suggestions during this envisioning process of park revitalization. We are planning a park restoration for which our grandchildren will thank us.
Louise McCurry, JPAC President