Record high lake levels have impact on Jackson Park sites, JPAC reports

“Many of us are very curious about what else is going to happen [to the Japanese Garden], and I am very hopeful that there will be a good community process,” says Margaret Schmidt, co-founder of Jackson Park Watch and volunteer in Jackson Park’s Japanese Garden, during a the Jackson Park Advisory Council’s monthly meeting. (Photo by Marc Monaghan)

Contributing writer

This Monday evening, the Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC) held its monthly meeting at the park’s fieldhouse. Members discussed the intensive flooding of the park, a renovation of one of the waterfalls at the Japanese Garden, and a new initiative to install little free libraries at the park’s playlots.

An Aug. 1 article in the Chicago Tribune noted that, as a result of record-high water levels in Lake Michigan, there has been extensive damage along the entire Chicago shoreline. In Jackson Park, that has affected the Museum Shores Yacht Club, where boats must travel beneath an underpass below Lake Shore Drive to enter the lake. When the water level is too high, the boats can’t leave the harbor.

The park has also seen extensive flooding recently, which has impacted locations like Wooded Island, 63rd Street Beach, and the Japanese Garden, where some of the paths are partially flooded. “It’s a major global warming crisis, and it’s also affecting us, since we’re a lakefront community,” said JPAC President Louise McCurry. 

McCurry added that, to help prevent future water damage, rebuilding some of the breakwaters near the shoreline that have fallen apart is “priority number one.” The South Lakefront Framework Plan, approved in April of 2018, includes the installation of breakwaters to protect the peninsula by La Rabida Children’s Hospital. 

McCurry also announced that one of the waterfalls at the Japanese Garden has been renovated after receiving a grant from the Japanese government. “They took the waterfall that used a city water hose, took the hose out, and made this beautiful, eight-sided Japanese garden fall. It’s really quite remarkable,” she said. 

In response to McCurry, Margaret Schmid, a JPAC member and co-president of nonprofit Jackson Park Watch, said she hoped any future planning process for the Japanese Garden would allow for public input. 

“It’s a very lovely thing, and I know many of us are very curious about what else is going to happen. And I’m very hopeful there will be a good community process,” Schmid said. “We can all benefit from hearing [plans] before they’re final.” 

Erin Adams, another JPAC member, said that she had received approval from the Chicago Park District to install two lending libraries at each of the park’s two playlots—one by 67th Street and Jeffery Avenue, and the other near the intersection of East End Avenue and East Hyde Park Boulevard. 

Adams added that the libraries are particularly important right now because the South Shore branch of the Chicago public library at 73rd Street and Exchange Avenue is closed for renovations until early 2020. “In South Shore, there’s even more of a real urgency to get books for the kids,” she said.