The Positive Impact of the OPC on Jackson Park’s Nature Areas

Dear Editor:

As the Park District’s volunteer steward for Jackson Park, I have been involved in helping to maintain the natural areas.

Ten years ago, many of the natural areas in Jackson Park and particularly Wooded Island were fraught with security and safety concerns. This has changed, to a large extent because of what has occurred with the restoration process and the increase in foot traffic that in itself has resulted in an increased sense of security.

The building of the [Obama Presidential Center] OPC, and the closing of the contiguous section of Cornell Avenue will result in a dramatic increase in the number of visitors to these natural areas. This means that not only will many more people enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of these natural areas but they will do so with increased comfort and security.

The closing of Cornell Avenue between the OPC and the nature areas will mean a great deal to the peacefulness of and ease of access to the Park: No more discomforting traffic noises; continuous parkland from the OPC all the way to and including Bobolink Meadow; and a safe pedestrian entrance to the Park without having to navigate the high-speed traffic of Cornell Avenue.

From Wooded Island and Bobolink Meadow, the views of the OPC to the west will not only lend to the aesthetics but will be a great inspiration for all South Siders to boast about our being the home of a two- term President.

An important element for Olmsted’s landscape designs, and equally important to the Park District, is encouraging people to visit and to use parks. The lure of the natural areas to OPC visitors will result in increased foot traffic in these spaces. Likewise, pedestrian traffic between the [Museum of Science and Industry] MSI and the OPC will encourage visitors to wander into the nature areas of the park, to explore the pedestrian paths along the lagoons, through Wooded Island and along the paths of Bobolink Meadow.

The narrow strip of land between Stony Island and Cornell avenues on which the OPC is going to be built is now anything but a restful, peaceful area of parkland that is so integral to Olmsted’s landscape concepts. It is noisy, busy, and unsafe for little children’s play. It is the OPC’s stated desire to landscape much of that area so as to make it consistent with Olmsted’s philosophies.

Jerry Levy
Chicago Park District Volunteer Steward for Jackson Park
sjlevy@jeromelevylaw.com