Jackson Park Endangered?

To the Editor: 

Preservation Chicago has deemed that Jackson Park is endangered.  This is a misplacement of judgment.

In the late 1860s the South Park Commission, inspired by Paul Cornell, hired Frederick Law Olmsted and partner Calvert Vaux to convert existing marshes and swales into a suitable place for recreation and sport. Even though Olmsted idealized that a park should be a “gentle blend” of man and nature, when, in 1893 he set aside Wooded Island as a place of respite from throngs of bustling tourists and hawkers of the Fair proper, its well-defined walkways and flowerbeds were no more “natural” than the English gardens and estates that he and his brother, John, visited in the 1850s.

Subsequent changes to Jackson Park, including preparations for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the development of the Music Court by Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot between 1895 and 1915, and the Johnson, Johnson, and Roy Project of the 1960s and 1970s, were piecemeal, incomplete, and often underfunded.

The Great Lakes Fisheries and Ecological Restoration program (GLFER), now underway in Jackson Park, exemplifies the very best techniques of ecological restoration. The Jackson Park Advisory Council, headed by President Louise McCurry, has inspired the installation of new playgrounds and athletic facilities, and implementation of cultural programs for adults and children in the fieldhouse and beyond.

Parks are places for sports, nature study, and recreation. They are places where people of all backgrounds can come together in the spirit of democracy.

Unless this spirit should fail, there is no endangerment at all.

Frances S. Vandervoort
Trail Coordinator, Jackson Park Advisory Council
Board member, Hyde Park Historical Society