JPW Update – January 29, 2016

Good news: the Jackson Park Watch e-list is rapidly growing, as news spreads about our collective effort to raise community concerns and bring accountability and transparency to Project 120 ideas about the future of our park. Next steps:

  • A good turnout to ask questions and raise concerns at the Feb. 8 workshop on Project 120 ideas (see more below);
  • Continuing to spread the word among friends and neighbors to build our e-list and expand our network;
  • Letters to the editor of the Hyde Park Herald ( to raise the visibility of our questions and concerns.

Along with this e-message, we are attaching the announcement of the Feb. 8 workshop on Project 120 ideas. It will take place from 5 to 7 in the Refectory in Washington Park. (As you drive through the park going west, it is the building with pillars to the south. There is ample parking.) This is a good chance to make our concerns more visible, so we hope for a good turnout. Look for Brenda (with white hair and glasses and wearing red fleece) to touch base and coordinate. (Margaret will be out of state.)

We hope you will have time to scrutinize the Project 120 announcement and come prepared to raise concerns. Here are some questions that occur to the two of us:

* Just who and what is Project 120? How will it be held accountable? Where is the transparency in the process? Exactly what role is the Chicago Park District playing in all this? What is the CPD approval process for any proposed change to Jackson Park (or any park)?

* How do the Frederick Law Olmsted plans developed in the late 1800s relate to conditions today? Does it make sense to use his plans as a template for 2016? Likewise, how does the label “South Parks” relate to today’s realities? What exactly does Project 120 have in mind in advancing that old concept?

* What is the basis for proposing a large multi-purpose building with a music performance venue (“the Phoenix Pavilion”) in the “Music Court”? A look at history shows that there was a never a permanent bandstand in that location, let alone a large building. We already have a music venue on the Midway, along with the Chosen Few House Party and many impromptu amplified performances in the park throughout the summer; do we need or want more?

* What would be the impact of re-imposing the 1931 “Great Lawn” on existing parkland? How many trees would be cut down? What recreations facilities would be lost? Does the Park District intend to create a large new open lawn space just when it has ceased eradicating dandelions in the parks to save money and minimize the adverse environmental impacts of herbicides?

*Finally, why keep moving forward with this Project 120 process when the announcement of the siting of the Obama Library is expected so soon? Doesn’t it make more sense to put Project 120 planning on hold until we know where the Obama Library will be located?

Again, we urge you to come to the Feb. 8 event to raise questions and concerns. We urge you as well to put them in writing in a letter to the Hyde Park Herald ( to help spread the word.

Hyde Park Herald – January 20, 2016

This letter is prompted by the Dec. 16 article “Project 120 Update” as well as by your comments about Jackson Park in your end-of-year coverage.

We and many others in the community have many concerns about Project 120, as was made very clear by the large number of participants raising questions at the Nov. 9 public workshop on the current proposals for Jackson and Washington Parks and the Midway Plaisance. These concerns include:

  • What exactly is Project 120 proposing? The plans appear to change on an on-going basis.
  • What are the specifics concerning the concert pavilion proposed to replace the existing parking lot east of Darrow Bridge close to the Museum of Science and Industry? Who would control, operate, staff, and maintain it? Would this be another privatization of public park space? What about noise and parking? If part of the goal is to provide a visitors’ center with displays and restrooms why not improve the existing Park District restroom facilities in the area and work with MSI to develop a display about the history of the Wooded Island and its environment there?
  • When and how will the public have the opportunity for decisive input beyond these sporadic workshops?

We hope that we are not wrong in trusting that significant public debate will be required to make any of the major changes to our beloved local parks that Project 120 appears to have in mind.

Brenda Nelms Margaret Schmid
We can be contacted at

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