By MEREDITH OGILVIE
It has only been a little over two months since representatives from the Chicago Park District (CPD) attended the advisory council meeting with hat in hand apologizing for the abrupt nature in which the Chicago Plays initiative without any prior notice, fenced off Bixler and removed the existing, beloved play equipment.
“We were able to get them from eight weeks of construction down to four so we were able to have use of the park during the summer months, which is especially important because we are the only park with a water feature in the area,” said Mila Jameson, president of the advisory council and mother to a seven year old and four year old.
Although the park reopened before the summer came to an end, there still seems to be a great deal of frustration among parents given the changes that were made do not reflect the needs of the users of the park, most of whom are children under the age of five.
“We are glad they paid the south side parks some attention, the equipment they put in is very nice and made of great quality, but that’s not the problem,” said park regular Marcy Schlessinger, who brings her grandchildren to Bixler. “They didn’t speak with any of the park users to see what was actually needed. They replaced things no one had any complaints about, they took away the tunnels, playhouses and shade and didn’t fix things we needed.”
Schlessinger said, “They put in equipment for kids ages 5-12 and left nothing for the kids under 5. There are even fewer baby swings than before.”
Jameson said the parents are angry.
“Before they made any changes our regional manager, Art Richardson, toured the park and said he didn’t find anything that needed to be replaced,” she said.
Jameson said this lack of community engagement speaks to the broader issue of Chicago’s bureaucracy and budget problems.
Schlessinger and Jameson have the same complaint in that they do not believe the CPD thought the plan through enough.
“If they’d just spent an hour talking to us they would have been more informed and made better choices,” Jameson said.
Schlessinger said the construction of the park does not seem complete.
“We would really like to help them understand what can be done to fix the problems,” Schlessinger said. “It just needs to be tweaked because they just didn’t think it through.”