Addressing Nature Sanctuary misinformation

 

To the Editor:

What troubles me most about the issue of the South Shore Nature Sanctuary is the willingness of those who are opposed to the new golf course to peddle the misinformation that it would “eliminate” the Nature Sanctuary and also the extent to which they have been successful in convincing the public of this misinformation. I am writing to describe my understanding of this situation and to share what I have learned about it as a community member and volunteer with the Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC).

For several years now I have joined a group of volunteers working on the ecological restoration of Wooded Island led by Jerry Levy. Wooded Island workdays generally occur on the last Saturday of the month. Jerry, the park Steward for Wooded Island, has a deep appreciation of the island’s natural beauty and a commitment to its preservation. As a volunteer, I have learned a great deal about the ecology of Wooded Island, and I encourage anyone who would like to learn more about the island and contribute to its preservation to join us on one of the workdays.

I am also a member of JPAC, which oversees the many activities and projects occurring in the park. In an effort to inform the public about activities and volunteer opportunities in Jackson Park, I asked Jerry to assist me in hosting a JPAC information table at the Social Justice Fair at University Church on Sept. 29.

While Jerry and I were encouraged by those who expressed an interest in volunteering, there was a common concern expressed by each and every individual to whom we spoke. They all expressed their strong disapproval for the elimination of the South Shore Nature Sanctuary as a part of the redesign of the two existing golf courses in the area.

Jerry, who is also a Steward for the Nature Sanctuary, patiently explained that about 3.5 acres of the Sanctuary’s 4.5 acres will not be affected. In every case, the people we spoke with were quite certain we had it wrong.  They noted that in everything they had read on the topic, it has been reported that the Sanctuary would be eliminated. And indeed, I have seen this misinformation in letters published in Hyde Park Herald.

To look into this further, I asked Jerry to walk through the Nature Sanctuary and to show me how the new golf course would impact the area. The proposed fairway and green for the new 15th hole would be along the lake and would be on land now occupied by the Nature Sanctuary. Yes, some acreage from this Sanctuary would be lost, but as Brian Hogan of the Golf alliance reports, the redesign plan also includes adding a nature area of about 4 acres, thus increasing the acreage of Sanctuary.

This issue has been discussed extensively at JPAC meetings, and while some have expressed their opposition to the redesigned golf course, there has also been strong and consistent support from South Side golfers who are in favor of the new golf course. Like many others, I would be saddened by this loss of parkland, but in our current situation with opposing views about the new golf course, an accurate understanding of the facts is needed. Those who are spreading misinformation about the elimination of the Nature Sanctuary are not helping us move toward a constructive solution.

Andy Carter

Jackson Park Advisory Council member