Speedy vote on South Shore Golf Complex concerns park preservation advocates

By Tonia Hill
Staff Writer

The Chicago Park District Board voted on Wednesday, Jan. 11, to take the first steps to make the South Shore Golf Complex a possibility. The fact that this decision was made only two days after the park’s first community meeting concerns many residents and park preservation advocates.

According to reports, the Chicago Park District Board unanimously agreed on an initial contract of just over $1 million to start research and engineering design for the $30 million project.

The project would combine and transform the golf courses at Jackson Park, 6401 S. Richards Dr., and South Shore, 7059 E. South Shore Dr., into a single 18-hole championship course and a shorter course.

No details on specifics for the golf complex have been released but during a Jackson Park Advisory Council meeting Monday, Jan. 9, Chicago Park District CEO Mike Kelly said, “I would love to break ground in spring.”

There are several additional community meetings regarding the golf complex planned but based on Wednesday’s board decision, park preservation advocates are questioning the validity of the community involvement process.

Brenda Nelms, who attended Wednesday’s meeting with fellow Jackson Park Watch member Margaret Schmidt, said that the meeting did not feel like a real discussion.

“The information that was being given was incomplete or they dodged things by saying that we don’t have that information yet it’s too early,” Nelms said. “There is a sense of it’s all been settled, and I hope that’s not true.”

Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Park [FOP], said that it appears that the decision for this course is already made.

“Although they suggest that they are still planning to have a community process, when they say they are going to break ground this spring that suggests that there isn’t much time for a community process and that really the decisions are pretty much already made,” Irizarry said.

According to the Chicago Park District, the project is years in the making, and there is no word yet on specifics for the golf complex, but the newly awarded contract will allow, for pre-work, including site planning, surveys, engineering and community process in support of the redesign of South Shore and Jackson park golf courses.

Irizarry said the Chicago Park District has been referring to a framework plan for Jackson Park that was created in 1999 [see link below] and saying that this golf course fits into that framework plan. She said the plan needs to be updated to include and consider all of the other major projects taking place in the park.

“They should have done a new framework plan for Jackson Park while anticipating the announcement of the Obama Library and then they could have used that framework plan to consider whether this new professional golf course and the existing golf course land fit within that framework plan.” Irizarry said. “They are doing the process backwards. They’ve put the cart before the horse.”

Nelms said there is a need for a comprehensive plan for Jackson Park and more community input.

“What you need are focus groups and extended meetings in developing a real framework plan,” Nelms said. “We are disappointed in the vote, but we hope that there will be some recognition and adjustments going forward.”

The complex is scheduled to open to the public in 2020.

Link to the Jackson Park Framework Project:

http://www.hydepark.org/parks/jpac/Framework-%20Jackson_South_Shore%20Framework%20Plan%201999.pdf

t.hill@hpherald.com