JPW Update – March 18, 2016

Thanks to everyone who attended the Jackson Park Advisory Council meeting Monday evening. About 45 people were there, many JPW supporters.

We presented for discussion a proposed process to enable community review of the specific proposals being advanced by Project 120. The first step would be to convene representatives from key organizations and groups to plan the best method of getting inclusive community input from a wide range of sources.

The need for such broad community review has become even more pressing now that we have a copy of the July 2014 MOU between the Park District and Project 120. This MOU envisions replacing the 1999 Jackson Park Framework Plan that was developed through a multi-step, inclusive process involving a wide range of organizations and individuals with a Revised Framework Plan that incorporates Project 120’s plans. For this Revised Framework Plan and the Project 120 plans it includes to have any legitimacy, its key components clearly must be submitted to the same sort of inclusive community review.

There was broad support for the community input process we presented. Importantly, Project 120 president Bob Karr was at the meeting. He reiterated his support for an inclusive community input process. He further said that he would not move forward with the pavilion plan if there was not community support for it.

We will continue working to get an effective community input process in place, reaching out to the Park District and Project 120 and others, and will keep you posted. At the same time, with your help, we can begin to develop a list of the key elements of Project 120 plans that need community review and input. We would welcome your thoughts about the top three to five items that should be on such a list. Please send your ideas to .

Another piece of JPAC business: The minutes of the January 11 JPAC meeting were corrected to accurately reflect that motion that was made and adopted at that meeting: “Moved that JPAC should reconsider its vote in support the Project 120 concept of a pavilion east of the Darrow Bridge and should provide a forum for more open discussion and community input on the pavilion concept and other aspects of the Project 120 proposals.”

Communication problems: We are aware that there transmission difficulties with the March 11 Update due to the size of the attachments. If you were unable to receive or access the attachments, you can download the MOU or the 1999 Jackson Park Framework Plan here.

JPW Update – March 11, 2016

MOU: We now have the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the Park District and Project 120. Signed on July 15, 2014, it runs through August 2017, and gives Project 120 surprising latitude over Jackson Park in several ways:

  • It creates a Revised Jackson Park Framework Plan to replace the framework plan that was developed in 1999 through an inclusive process (see below).
  • It authorizes Project 120’s development of the “New Phoenix Pavilion and Cultural Zone.”
  • It authorizes Project 120’s development of “The Garden of the Phoenix,” defined as the area extending from the south side of the Museum of Science and Industry, around the Columbian Basin, to the north end of Wooded Island, and including the site of the original Phoenix Pavilion, the Osaka Japanese Garden, and over 120 cherry trees.

The MOU also approves Project 120’s development of plans for the “Great Lawn Project,” and specifies that CPD and Project 120 will continue to work on the development of the Revised Jackson Park Framework Plan. (You can access the MOU here; the first 12 pages contain the formal agreement.)

The MOU details only the arrangements for the US Army Corps of Engineers GLFER Project that is now underway; specifications for other projects will be defined in additional agreements. While the MOU requires Park District approval of any actual work on subsequent projects, it does not explicitly require any community input beyond normal Park District requirements for such approval, if such exist. (We are investigating just what those are).

1999 Jackson Park Framework Plan: The prior framework plan for Jackson Park was developed in 1999 through an inclusive process involving a large number of community organizations and institutions and a wide range of individuals. (You can download a 12mb copy of the framework plan here. Pages 16-18 list defined priorities; pages 36-37 and 41-43 describe the community input process and the participants. Note some pages are out of order.)

The fact that such an open and inclusive process was used in developing the 1999 plan is a key precedent. While there is some continuity between the 1999 plan and some elements of the revised plan outlined by Project 120 in the MOU, it is significant that proposals for major new projects have not been submitted for community review and approval, and that the new plan is, in essence, a top-down invention. Together the MOU and the example of the 1999 plan underscore the importance of our continuing to work to ensure community input and participation in decision-making about the plans that Project 120 has been advancing.

Coming up at this Monday’s JPAC meeting
March 14, 7:00 pm, Jackson Park Fieldhouse, 64th and Stony Island. Street parking is available

Meeting minutes: Approval of the minutes of the prior meeting will be the first order of business, and we want to ensure that the meeting minutes from January 11 accurately reflect the resolution that was passed. The motion made by Margaret Schmid and seconded by Brenda Nelms stated:

“Moved that JPAC should reconsider its vote in support of the Project 120 concept of a pavilion east of the Darrow Bridge and should provide a forum for more open discussion and community input on the pavilion concept and other aspects of the Project 120 proposals.” (moved by Margaret Schmid, seconded by Brenda Nelms.)

The draft minutes of the meeting read, however:

“As adjusted from the floor and stated from the chair: JPAC will continue to evaluate, and hold open discussions regarding Project 120 or other pavilion concepts or proposals for east of the Darrow bridge and whether to support these. JPAC also supports there being well advertised public meetings with robust input on the same.”

We simply want to ensure that the minutes are accurate.

Community input process: As indicated in our resolution, we have hoped to come to an agreement with JPAC leaders that JPAC and JPW would work with other community partners to create an inclusive community-based process to review Project 120 plans and had asked JPAC president Louise McCurry to add a relevant agenda item. Thus we were glad to see this item in a JPAC meeting reminder sent 3/10/16:

Next, Representatives from a new group, Jackson Park Watch, will introduce their organization and present ideas for robust public input in park planning, particularly Project 120 and concepts of facilities such as a visitors’ center/pavilion etc. (Persons from the Park District and Project 120 will be present but there will not be presentations or an extended q and a. An overall time will be agreed upon.)

We look forward to this discussion, and trust that you all will join in! After the meeting, we will assess next steps and will be in touch.

Benign neglect has not helped Jackson Park (Hyde Park Herald – March 9, 2016)

To the Editor:

Ms. Newhouse is correct (Herald, March 2, 2016). The Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary occupies a significant portion of Wooded Island in Jackson Park, and almost all of the park is a haven for migratory and resident birds. Squirrels and other mammals, turtles, fishes, and a vast array of invertebrates — insects, crayfish, worms thrive there despite the temporary disruption of Project 120. They will continue to do so.

Benign neglect has not helped Jackson Park, nor will it. Over the years, non-indigenous plants and trees, including buckthorn, white poplar and garlic mustard took over woodland, grassy fields, and lagoons, making the park unsuitable, even unlivable, for many native species.

On a broader scale, benign neglect led to the breakdown of physical structures — roofs of buildings decayed, and concrete walls crumbled. Benches, walkways, and playgrounds, even our beloved Darrow Bridge succumbed to the powerful forces of nature. And, when a park’s superstructure is neglected, at what point does benign neglect morph into overt abuse?

All park-goers have seen the results of such abuse — accumulation of filth in open areas and underused buildings, deliberately ruined benches and park equipment, damaged and often destroyed trees and other vegetation, and the too-common practices of trading in drugs and sex.

Project 120 addresses all of these issues. Experts in park history, ecology, and geology are already improving the ecological balance within the park. The park’s infrastructure will be stabilized with improved walkways and bridges so that once again it is safe to look for birds, engage in photography, or simply stroll in a superb natural garden. “Neglect” must no longer be a part of Jackson Park. Parks must be safe, beautiful places for all to enjoy, respect, and become a part of.

Project 120’s organizers have held several public meetings to encourage open-ended discussion about the future of Jackson Park, Washington Parks, and the Midway, most recently on Feb. 8 at the Washington Park Refectory. These meetings are publicly announced — all concerned individuals are welcome to attend.

Ms. Newhouse, please visit Jackson Park to see it change and grow. You will be impressed with what is there, and what it promises to become.

Guided tours of Wooded Island take place the last Saturday of each month, beginning at 10 a.m., at the south bridge of the Island. We hope to see you on March 26.

Frances S. Vandervoort
Nature Trail Coordinator
Jackson Park Advisory Council

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JPW Update – March 7, 2016

MOU: JPW coordinators Brenda and Margaret have continued their search for information relating to Project 120’s plans and process. The MOU (memorandum of understanding) between Project 120 and the Chicago Park District seems important as well as elusive, despite requests at the Feb. 8 workshop and subsequently. Further encouraged by a conversation with Erma Tranter (see below), JPW has submitted a FOIA request to the Park District for a copy.

Recent Meetings:
Margaret and Brenda met with Erma Tranter, former president of Friends of the Parks and someone very familiar with much relevant Jackson Park history. She highlighted the importance of MOUs to understanding what private entitites can do in a public park, explaining that an MOU will define very specifically the work area, the timetable, and the scope of what can be done, and that outside entities can raise funds only for things/areas covered in a MOU.

We also met with Project 120’s Bob Karr. Karr repeated the statement he made at the February 8 public workshop about desiring and in fact – he said – needing community input. He said he does not want to move forward with anything that the community does not want, the pavilion being a case in point. We said that JPW completely agrees with the critical importance of community input and participation in decision-making and expressed our willingess to work together to that end. We wait to see if something positive develops and will keep you posted.


  • The next meeting of the Jackson Park Advisory Council will be Monday, March 14, at 7:00 pm at the Jackson Park Fieldhouse at 64th Street and Stony Island. We hope that many of you will be there. There is ample street parking close at hand.
  • Approval of the minutes of the well-attended January 11 meeting may be contentious, since the resolution that was adopted regarding Project 120 has not been reflected accurately in the draft minutes included in the JPAC Newsletter. We will bring to the meeting copies of the wording of the resolution as we believe it was presented in January and will also distribute that to JPW members with a meeting reminder later this week. We have also asked that the agenda for the meeting include a discussion of the process for community input into the plans for Jackson Park being developed by Project 120.
  • Remember that you qualify as a voting member if you have attended two meetings in the past twelve months and have filled out a membership form. Payment of dues is not required.

Jackson Park is not for profit (Hyde Park Herald – March 2, 2016)

To the Editor:

Jackson Park is a sanctuary. It is a haven. Jackson Park is everyone’s Sanctuary. Jackson Park is not for profit. It is not for anyone’s exploitation.

My highest priority is the protection and preservation of the Wooded Island, the bird sanctuary and the Bowling Green. For 50 years I have cared about Jackson Park. Also, Jackson Park is in the midst of a quiet residential area.

Benign neglect is far preferable to the 120 Project encroachment or any project of its ilk.

Thank you for your attention and concern.

Kathie Newhouse

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