To the Editor:
With dismay I have watched momentum gather for placing the Obama Presidential Library in a major park. With the rest of the South Side, Hyde Parkers long to have the library of this remarkable man nearby, but a park — public land – is not the place for it. Siting the library anywhere on Chicago’s South Side would immediately result in a burst of community development not seen since urban renewal more than 50 years ago. Public transit would improve, businesses would move in, walkways would be beautified with trees and flowers and potholes would disappear as fast as a snowflake on a hot tin roof. All this would happen, regardless of whether the library was placed next to, across from or down the street from either Washington Park or Jackson Park. In fact, building the library on the west side of King Drive between 51st and 55th streets and connecting it to Washington Park by an overpass or underpass would be a win-win situation for the community and park!
Nearly 150 years ago, Jackson and Washington parks were designed by legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who envisaged them as green respites providing relief from the hurly-burly of city life. Olmsted disapproved of elaborate landscaping, most buildings, even statues in the parks he designed. Constructing the Obama Library in either of our great parks demeans the vision of this great man, and dishonors the memory of dedicated local park advocates including George Overton, George Cooley, Gerda Schild and beloved photographer and environmental activist Nancy Hays. We can, we must do better than this.
Frances S. Vandervoort