We must not just give away 22 acres of precious public land

To the Editor:   

The controversy over the fate of Jackson Park boils on.  It has elicited many expressions of grave concern over the proposed major project that threatens to radically change the face of Jackson Park, rendering it virtually unrecognizable!  Our beautiful, historical natural public urban green refuge designed by the famous Frederic Law Olmsted may well be overwhelmed by the extensive alterations, plus intensive uses of the Obama Center, along with major changes of the landscape required by the proposed Tiger Woods PGA Golf Course.  The required roadway changes, along with two overpasses will cost countless millions of tax dollars.  In the process, nature surely stands to take a beating.  Do we really need all of this?  We must pause, take a deep breath, then give the whole issue some serious reconsideration.

We must not simply proceed with the implementation of the potentially destructive current Jackson Park plan, a project that we may live to deeply regret if actually pursued as is.  We must not just give away 22 acres of precious public land.  That’s a lot of space, the equivalent of two full city blocks, enough to accommodate dozens of buildings!  So unnecessary!

The Herald has given excellent coverage of this urgent matter.  The two letters in the Nov. 15 issue both strongly urge dropping of the Jackson Park plan, and building in a community where the need of benefits is paramount.  I, and some others, believe that the Washington Park area near Garfield should not have been discounted so soon in favor of the more glamorous Jackson Park.  Important to note is the potential for using much less, maybe no park space.  There may be sufficient unused private land along King Drive.  An attractive pedestrian bridge could connect the new Obama Center with Washington Park.  The Center then would be a vital economic boost to the area.

There are other good reasons for not using Jackson Park for the Obama Center.  The 400-car parking garage on the Midway is a concern.  The proposed closure of Cornell Drive, which is currently an attractive landscaped parkway providing a useful and scenic passage between the Outer Drive and Stony Island Avenue, is another concern.  I hate to think of how its removal would impact traffic at a busy time.  Though some argue that closure would be an ecological benefit to the park, they do not realize that Cornell Drive provides a vital protective shield for the Wooded Island Lagoon, a part of the nature preserve that would suffer excessive public use of the west bank without the protection of current features.

Architecturally, I am not happy with the design of the Obama Center museum.  The plan illustration shows a prominent strange looking inflated cube of a building, aesthetically wanting and of questionable practical exhibition value, due to the tilted walls, not suitable for display purposes. Certainly, we can do better!

Respectfully submitted,
Charles G. Staples