Wooded Island news: good and not-so-good

To the Editor:

There is good news and not-such-good news about the Osaka Japanese Garden and the Wooded Island.  The good news is that it is very likely that the fence surrounding the Island and lagoon will come down sometime next month.  The not-such-good-news, depending on one’s perspective, is that the occasion for this will be the undoubtedly media-heavy event surrounding the “unveiling” of the Yoko Ono Sky Landing sculpture on the Island.

The work of creating the concrete foundation for the Yoko Ono piece is now underway.  The base will be clad in marble.  Eventually, if not in time for the “unveiling,” the fence and walkway now on the west side of the Japanese Garden will be removed, and a new fence enclosing the Garden and the sculpture will be erected, dramatically changing the experience of being in the Garden.  Lovers of the traditional Osaka Garden may be unhappy; those who fancy the new may be pleased.  In any event, the north end of the Wooded Island will have been permanently changed.

Policy questions remain: Who is paying for the major infrastructure work that the installation requires?  Who is paying for the sculpture?  Who will own it and maintain it?  What about security? With the Darrow Bridge closed, where will visitors park?  What about public restrooms?  Jackson Park Watch has asked these questions of the Park District Board of Commissioners numerous times, with no response.

Other questions concern the consequences, not only for the Garden, which may well become not only a tourist attraction but a revenue-generating event location, but also importantly for the tranquility of the Wooded Island and for the birds and other wildlife that find shelter in the nature sanctuary it hosts .

And finally, all of this has occurred with no community input, but instead, apparently under the sweeping authority granted Project 120 by the secretive MOU executed between the Park District and Project 120 in 2014.

We already have commitments concerning community input on Project 120’s proposed pavilion/music venue, and we need to make those stick.  Now we need to ensure that the top-down process used to bring Yoko Ono’s sculpture to the Wooded Island does not set the model for decision-making concerning the Obama Library and its impact on the Park.  Please join us to that end.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
coordinators, Jackson Park Watch