JPW Update – February 17, 2016

 JPW coordinators Brenda and Margaret continue to work at gathering information and getting the word out.  And the word IS getting out!  There have been terrific letters to the editor in the Hyde Park Herald this week and last ( ). The Herald featured a big article about the 2/8 Project 120 Public Workshop on the front page of its 2/17 paper edition.  (It’s online at .)  

Brenda and Margaret have been meeting with key people with a stake in Jackson Park both to gather information and to share JPW concerns.  Recent meetings include:

State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie, alerted by Jackson Park Watch communications, requested a briefing from the Chicago Park District and invited Brenda to participate (Margaret was out of town). Kim du Buclet, Park District Director of Legislative and Community Affairs, attended along with Robert Karr, president of Project 120, who provided an overview of that initiative.   Currie had many questions, including “Where is the Park District in this?” She stressed to Karr the absolute importance of getting community input and buy-in on any plans for the parks.

• We met with Lauren Moltz, president of the board of Friends of The Parks, to raise questions and concerns.  Moltz, a Hyde Parker as many of you may know, shares our commitment to promoting an open and inclusive process for assessing any proposals for Jackson Park and our sense that that openness has not yet been achieved.  She also clarified that Friends of the Parks has no formal “partnership” with Project 120 (contrary to the listing on the Project 120 website).

• Looking for better understanding and points of agreement, we invited Louise McCurry, Jackson Park Advisory Council president, for coffee and conversation. Louise recruited Gary Ossewaarde, JPAC secretary , and Frances Vandervoort, long-time JPAC member and leader, to join the discussion, which focused on the evolution of thinking and planning for a structure on the Music Court.  All agreed that there should be community input for such plans, though, to our minds, the mechanisms for that input are ill-defined;  communication will continue.  

Susannah Ribstein and Eric Rogers, who live in South Shore, have joined Jackson Park Watch in part because of their concerns for Project 120 plans (or rather  lack of plans) for that end of the park.  Both have expertise in current communications technologies and recently met with Brenda and Margaret to discuss how JPW can move to the next level in communicating with community members. Look for some expanded capacities  in the near future thanks to their expertise and generosity.

Next steps:  Try to understand the role, goals, and processes of the Chicago Park District in the development of the Jackson Park Framework Plan, especially in light of the fact that CPD’s formal agreement with Project 120 covers only the US Army Corps of Engineers GLFER project now underway.

Questions, comments, ideas?  Let us hear from you!


Project 120 getting ahead of itself (Hyde Park Herald – February 17, 2016)

To the Editor:

I attended the February 8, 2016, presentation by Project 120 representatives and am concerned about their plans to build a music pavilion in Jackson Park east of Darrow Bridge and to put a regular traffic-bearing road across the bridge. The resulting noise and crowds are not what Jackson Park needs, nor what I expect the Army Corps of Engineers anticipated when it allocated several million dollars to restore the habitat in the park. Moreover Project 120’s planned building would have large glass windows, a death trap for the birds that migrate through the park in spring and fall.

I am also concerned that Project 120 is getting a bit ahead of itself. While their website currently says, “Project 120 Chicago and the Chicago Park District have selected” an architect to design a music pavilion, the Chicago Park District has not even approved the project, let alone selected an architect. I gathered from the Feb. 8 meeting that Project 120 and the Park District entered into a Memorandum of Understanding only for documenting Project 120’s funding commitment for the Army’s restoration project and having Project 120’s landscape architect participate in the planning of the project. If that is correct, then now that the restoration project is well underway Project 120 no longer has the right to speak on behalf of the Park District about future plans for the rest of Jackson Park.

But those of us who use Jackson Park regularly and want to preserve it as an urban wilderness should be speaking up now. Yes, Darrow Bridge needs to be fixed and it would be wonderful if there was more interpretive material for park visitors. But now that the Army project is in its final phases, perhaps the park’s next door neighbor, the Museum of Science and Industry, could be persuaded to help out by guiding some of its visitors out of its doors, across a repaired Darrow Bridge, and onto a newly planted Wooded Island.

Jackson Park is an oasis that does not need a new permanent building, or a new road cutting through the park, despite what Project 120 says.

Thank you,
Eric Ginsburg

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Project 120 will adversely affect daily commute for residents (Hyde Park Herald – February 10, 2016)

To the Editor:

If you commute using Cornell Drive, Project 120’s plans are going to affect you. Project 120 plans to have traffic drive over the Clarence Darrow Bridge. In addition to affecting the Paul H Douglas Sanctuary on Wooded Isle which begins about 40 feet away, this new road will make Jackson Park noisier and less safe for families having picnics. The short-cut between LSD and Cornell Drive will mean there will be an additional stoplight on Cornell Drive. The parking area in back of the Museum will be removed when the Phoenix Pavilion/Music Building is built and so the plan is to remove 2 lanes of traffic from Cornell Drive and use those lanes for street parking. This will certainly affect that people who commute and at some points when there is a turning lane on Cornell Drive, there will only be one lane going each way.

The traffic light at LSD and Science Drive needs adjusting. I tried to report this on the 311 hotline but was unsuccessful in getting this issue addressed.

About the time they started working on wooded isle, the city changed the timing of the stoplight at the intersection of Science Drive/ Lake Shore Drive causing an additional back-up every week day on LSD. The light used to be triggered by the weight of your car when your were driving out of the parking lot behind the Museum of Science and Industry. Now the light regularly changes when no one is waiting to exit the Museum parking lot causing a back-up in traffic. This commuting problem could be fixed right now. However, once the road connecting LSD and Cornell goes through the museum lot, this will be a permanent bottle neck for commuters.

We need some ideas for how to get the Darrow Bridge fixed for pedestrians if IDOT won’t fix it unless it is road that links LSD and Cornell. Not sure if that is true, but let’s suppose it is. Why not try to sell the name. Give Yoko Ono first shot at it? the Darrow Lennon Bridge??

Need more reasons to be against project 120’s music venue/concession stand/pavilion?

Chicago has a lot of music venues, but not many natural areas city people who visit natural areas (no buildings, lots of plants and animals) are happier and healthier music venue building will destroy habitat used by migrating birds music venue building will destroy habitat for other critters music venue building will cut down 30 more trees music venue building will take away space for dog walking parking area behind museum will be taken away reunion/picnicking areas will be gone more noise pollution is looking for your comments. We’ll post your letters to Leslie Hairston (you don’t have to be in her district to comment). If you want to leave a comment about your love for Jackson Park — call 773 913 2030 and leave a message— (it will mention a dog training school, that is the right number ) we will transcribe it and put it on the testimonial page of the website

Jane Masterson

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Proposed loud music venue out of sync with Jackson Park (Hyde Park Herald – February 10, 2016)

To the Editor:

I am writing to express my concern about the Phoenix Pavilion with Music Court that is planned for Jackson Park, adjacent to the Museum of Science and Industry, as part of the Project 120 collaboration. This is an area of the park that I see many people using for parking, family picnics, dog walking, birding and nature walks. A friend and I wrote to Alderman Hairston’s office about this concern some months ago, but received no response.

It seems to me that a loud music venue would not be in harmony with the natural environment. We already have the Northerly Island music venue, not so far away, in what was “supposed” to be a nature reserve on the former Meigs Field.

The great American landscape architects -Frederick Law Olmsted and Daniel Burnham -must be spinning in their graves as they hear about yet another encroachment on sacred parkland. Of course they lived in a bygone era when pubic figures were long sighted and not simply motivated by money and profit.

I agree with the Japanese belief that time spent in nature lowers stress levels and can even help the immune system to fight cancer and other disease, as mentioned on this Happy Parks Happy People website:

Marge Ishmael

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The community wants a say in changes for Jackson Park (Hyde Park Herald – February 10, 2016)

To the Editor:

I share the concerns raised by Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid in their January 20 letter to the Herald. I live in the 5th Ward, where I have lived for 33 years. During the fall, I wrote both Alderman Hairston and the Project 120 team to raise similar issues, but neither the alderman nor Project 120 has replied to my letters.

  1. The changing nature of the plans for the park and the secretive manner of their deciding. We were told at the outset that the effort was to restore Wooded Island to native plants, but it now appears that we are excluded from the park while
    we wait for Japanese cherry trees to mature.
  2. We would like to see all environmental impact statements for noise pollution, loss of protected species, and effect on water quality. Before Wooded Island was closed, we watched in horror as thousands of fish died after poison was put in the water. What effect has that poison, and the death of the fish, had on the turtles and birds that also use the island?
  3. What park usage surveys were done before construction began? The southeast part of Jackson Park, near the bowling green, is where many South Siders come in the summer for picnics and family reunions. There are few parks on the South Side where low-income families can easily park or come by public transportation. How will removing all that parking and picnicking space affect them?
  4. Noise pollution from a music pavilion is a serious concern for those of us within a half-mile radius of the proposed pavilion. On the three or four times a year that private parties use amplifiers in the parks, the noise is a major irritant. We were told at the January 17 community meeting that the Burnham plan included a music pavilion, but in Daniel Burnham’s day, there were no giant amplifiers. Music could be heard by the people who came to hear it, not by everyone within ten or twelve blocks of the pavilion.
  5. Many of the Project 120 members do not live in the area. I understand that some are in Wilmette. Perhaps if they began imagining closing off Gillson Park and building an amphitheater there whose sound would affect people on Michigan Avenue in Wilmette, they could understand why there is resistance in Hyde Park to the Phoenix Pavilion.
  6. The Clarence Darrow Bridge has been fenced off for at least four if not five years. It is disingenuous to claim that it is not used and therefore not worth repairing when, in fact, it has not been possible to use it for that length of time.
  7. People come from all over the world to view the migratory birds in Bobolink Meadow and Wooded Island. Indeed, they’ve been written up in various airline magazines, including an article I myself wrote for British Airways three years ago. Shutting off these parks and destroying the habitats has an adverse effect on our local economy. In my own nearly daily walks around the locked up Wooded Island I have encountered numerous foreigners, puzzled that this tourist attraction is shut to them.

It is frustrating to have no voice in these matters, and to have my letters to my own alderman, and to the Project 120 staff, completely ignored. I am grateful to Ms. Nelms and Ms. Schmid for finding a platform to elevate these issues in front of the whole community.

Sara N. Paretsky

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JPW Update – February 9, 2016

Thanks to all who turned out for last night’s South Parks Public Workshop at the Washington Park Refectory. Here is a “brief” report for those who could not attend.

Attendance and structure: There were perhaps 75 attendees, representing both Washington and Jackson Parks constituencies. Project 120 President Robert Karr gave an overview of the initiative. Landscape architect Patricia O’Donnell then talked about Olmsted’s principles and outlined the major points of the current Washington Park and Jackson Park Framework Plans, with a Q&A session for each plan. (The development of a separate framework plan for the Midway Plaisance is underway.)

Timelines, fundraising: In response to questions, Karr and O’Donnell were much more specific than in prior presentations about timelines, next steps, the status of fundraising. Among the major points:

  • Project 120 has to date raised $1.6M, which has been directed to engage O’Donnell and to help the Chicago Park District (CPD) meet the required match for the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration (GLFER) project of the US Army Corps of Engineers. The first phase of GLFER (2015-16) has focused on the lagoons that surround Wooded Island – stabilizing the water’s edges, removing invasive species (a requirement of the federal program), and extensive planting of a variety of native plants.
  • Project 120 is now trying to raise an additional $1M by September 2016 in order to support a second phase of GLFER (2017-18?) that would focus on the boat harbors on either side of Lake Shore Drive, south of Hayes Drive.
  • GLFER is the only project currently approved by the CPD for implementation, under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding that Project 120 signed with CPD in June 2014.
  • Subsequent parts of Project 120’s Jackson Park Framework Plan (and of the other framework plans) will be subject to extensive discussion and a public review process before being green-lighted (though the exact approval process remains undefined) and all are dependent first on successful fundraising.
  • Karr stated that Project 120 is committed to engaging the community and wants to be a model for such initiatives. He recognized that there needs to be much more public input and communication. O’Donnell stressed that the current framework plans are only the first of many versions that will evolve over the coming years in response to funding availability, events (such as the Obama Library), and community input.

Discussion of the Jackson Park Framework Plan (beyond the GLFER work already completed or in progress):

  • Who are you? Who are your donors? (relevant for both Washington and Jackson Park discussions)
    • Karr talked of his own personal interests and long connections with the Japanese garden and of the origins of Project 120 from the Garden of the Phoenix Foundation and the convergence of its interests in enhancing the Japanese garden with the GLFER project.
    • The major donor identified was local Hyde Park benefactor Bernard DelGiorno, who has committed $1M.
  • Visitors center/music pavilion
    • O’Donnell posited the need for a “home” in the park – some place that would be active and inhabited all the time – as necessary to improve safety (or perceptions of safety) and make the park more inviting. She stressed that the pavilion’s music performance capacity was meant to be low-level – for groups of perhaps 250, not for large-scale events.
    • As you might expect, many attendees were not persuaded by her points and there was a chorus of concerns: noise bothering birds and near-by residents; danger of glass panels to birds; loss of trees and parking spaces; planning for visitors rather than residents; primacy of Wooded Island as a nature preserve; availability of other venues for exhibits, meetings, performances, restrooms; lack of a business plan for the facility detailing operating, staffing and maintenance needs and costs.
  • Great Lawn
    • The Framework Plan relocates the golf driving to the south of Hayes Drive and creates a large open expanse east of Bobolink Meadow.
    • Concerns expressed include removal of trees, with preference for trees versus huge open space; removal of tennis courts and dog park.
  • Darrow Bridge
    • Note: This is not a Project 120 initiative; rather it is an initiative of CPD with the Department of Transportation. But the renovation of the bridge is the basis for part of the framework plan, including an active driveway leading from Lake Shore Drive across the bridge to Cornell Drive. The current plan shows this as a one-way-west drive, with parking along the sides.
    • Concerns expressed include problems with noise affecting Wooded Island, safety, congestion, pass-through traffic.
  • Cornell Drive
    • Framework Plan proposes narrowing or reconfiguration (median with trees, bike lanes) to slow traffic
    • Concerns expressed include congestion and other problems for commuters who rely on the link to Stony Island and beyond
  • Project 120’s next steps for Jackson Park
    • Fundraising for GLFER project phase 2
    • Spring/Summer 2016: stage public walks in park to solicit community input; add overlook benches around Wooded Island lagoons; plant trees; conduct traffic assessments
    • More public meetings (no schedule set)

It is encouraging to know that Project 120 understands the need for much more community input and that all plans will have public review before approval by CPD. But it will be a long process, and it will be important to stay tuned and to participate actively in the discussions for each part of the design.

If you have questions and comments, please respond to this message, and we will share and try to address those as a group.

If those who attended have other comments or observations to emphasize and share, please respond to this email; we will collect and redistribute those notes in a second communication.

JPW Update – February 5, 2016

REMINDER: Project 120 is having a public workshop this coming Monday, Feb. 8, from 5 to 7:30 at the Refectory in Washington Park. This is a terrific chance for us to be visible with our questions and concerns. PLEASE NOTE THAT PROJECT 120 HAS CHANGED THE ORDER OF THE AGENDA: discussion of Jackson Park is now scheduled from 6:30 to 7:20, after the discussion of Washington Park.

Jackson Park Watch coordinators Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid met with Hyde Park Herald editor Daschell Phillips and reporter Sam Rappaport this past Wednesday morning and had a broad-ranging discussion of JPW concerns. Daschell indicated that they are receiving letters supporting Brenda’s and Margaret’s recent letter to the editor. In fact, one is in this week’s edition of the Herald, so keep those letters coming. Sam will be at the Feb. 8 workshop and wants to talk about JPW issues, so look for him there.

Brenda and Margaret also met on Wednesday with Alderman Leslie Hairston’s chief of staff Kim Webb and aide Lanita Ross (who attends particularly to park issues). They had a dialogue focused on the lack of community input, the ever-changing nature of Project 120 “concepts,” and the absence of an open process for making decisions on the proposals. Kim indicated that the Alderman is committed to transparency and that no “done deal” has been made. Lanita will also be at the Feb. 8 meeting and available for discussion.

Other news:
JACKSON PARK ADVISORY COUNCIL: Those of you on the JPAC e-mail list have received the newsletter including the minutes of the Jan. 11 meeting. If you were in attendance, you will have noted that they do not accurately reflect the discussion or the motion that was adopted. (If you’d like an e-copy, let us know.) Brenda and Margaret are thinking about how best to advocate for community involvement and a sensible decision-making process at the next JPAC meeting, March 14 at 7 p.m. at the Jackson Park Fieldhouse. Please plan to be there! We will do some advance planning, and will welcome your involvement. (Remember that you do not need to pay dues to be a JPAC member. Rather, according to Park District rules, which JPAC loosely follow, completing a membership application – which we’ll have at the meeting or can send in advance as an email attachment – and attendance at two meetings over a 12-month period qualifies you as a member.)

SPRING AWAKENING: You may have heard that the Spring Awakening 2016 Festival will take place in Jackson Park, June 10-12 because Soldiers Field has been preempted for another event. Similar to Riotfest or Lollapalooza and touted as the largest dance party in the Midwest ( ), the event organizers expect some 40,000 attendees over three days. In addition to 6 stages for music, there will be fireworks, carnival rides, and a Ferris wheel. ( ). Having this event in Jackson Park seems to us to be completely ill-advised: there is no proper stadium-like facility, parking and restrooms are inadequate, and there would be horrendous problems with noise, traffic, and with the impact on birds, the on-going park restoration project, and on the parkland itself. Although tickets are already on sale, we have shared our concerns. If you agree, you can contact the Herald (, the Park District (, the Alderman ( and/ or JPAC (Louise McCurry, and Gary Ossewaarde,

More questions about Jackson Park’s “Project 120” (Hyde Park Herald – February 3, 2016)

To the Editor:

I wish to add my support to the Jan. 20, 2016 letter from Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid, raising serious questions regarding “Project 120,” which I now understand from the JPAC meeting I attended on Jan. 11, 2016, is only in its “concept” stage.

I have been privileged to enjoy the peace and aesthetic beauty of the Osaka gardens, the Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary and Bob-o-Link Meadows for the past fifty years, along with fellow dog-walkers and bird watchers. I am hopeful that when the “concept” becomes more manifest, it will reflect the legitimate concerns of the Jackson Park community, protecting and preserving this precious sanctuary for the next fifty years.

I urge other concerned citizens to attend the next JPAC meeting, currently scheduled for March 14, 2016, at 7 p.m. at the field house. Hopefully, an update on “Project 120” will be part of the formal agenda for the meeting, giving the community an opportunity to participate in a responsible and constructive way to the decision making process.

-Ray Kuby

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