Golf course impact on Nature Sanctuary

 

To the Editor:

We are responding to the letter “Addressing Nature Sanctuary Misinformation” published in the Oct. 16 edition of the Herald. It’s unfortunate that the author Andy Carter seems rather poorly informed himself, but we hope to provide both Mr. Carter and your readers with some clarity on what’s at stake for the South Shore Nature Sanctuary in the proposed expansion of the South Shore & Jackson Park Golf Courses.

The authors of this letter all live in the South Shore community and most of us have for years been active members of the South Shore Cultural Center Advisory Council, an established multi-generational, multi-racial community group. Our PAC was formed by participants in the coalition that saved the South Shore Country Club building for use as the South Shore Cultural Center to insure full access and robust use by the whole South Shore community. Personally, we have among us decades of experience with this park and have logged thousands of hours enjoying it and volunteering there. Some of us were members of the cohort that advocated for the establishment of the South Shore Nature Sanctuary almost 20 years ago.

While a portion of the existing Sanctuary would technically survive the golf course expansion, the most used and most beautiful section along the waterfront would be lost – including the council rings which are a destination for South Siders to picnic, gather, or sit in quiet contemplation of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. The remaining acreage would lose many mature trees now protecting it and be too exposed to golf ball hazards to be usable as a sanctuary for either humans or animals.

The “natural areas” that Mr. Carter claims will be added elsewhere in the park would be cut off by golf fairways, and would be too fragmented and exposed to golf hazards to be considered a nature sanctuary by any reasonable definition. Some of the land designated as natural area on the 2018 plans has since become submerged by the rising lake.

Furthermore, no Park District funding exists to actually create any of these natural areas anyway. The fact is that after decades of community use, stewardship, and native plant growth, the South Shore Nature Sanctuary would be destroyed by the current plan for the golf course expansion. Anyone arguing otherwise is either terribly ill-informed or willfully misrepresenting the situation.

The Sanctuary is a refuge providing profound environmental, physical, aesthetic, financial, and mental health benefits to the residents of South Shore, a majority African American community which has suffered decades of intentional divestment. The free public lakefront access which this plan would destroy – not only in the Sanctuary but throughout the Cultural Center park – is one of this community’s most substantial amenities and key to its economic stability and hopeful future.

We as individuals and collectively through the South Shore PAC have, over the past three years, expressed publicly and privately to the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance our support for a sustainable, sensitive restoration of the existing golf course and for preserving the Nature Sanctuary as it now is. No one on the South Side benefits from the falsehood that we must choose between the attraction of a fine golf course and the respectful protection of lakefront community amenities like our Nature Sanctuary.

We invite Mr. Carter and anyone else concerned with this issue to help us in advocating for a course plan that benefits and serves all rather than only the select few.

Susannah Ribstein, Jeanette Foreman, Kathy Henning, David Offenberg,

Eric Allix Rogers