The Community Meeting on Jackson Park was a major success on many fronts. Thanks to Alderman Hairston for convening it!
Turnout. The La Rabida meeting room was packed, with 45 people standing along the sides and in the back – well over 170 in all, despite the rain. If there were any doubts that there is huge interest and concern in the community about what Project 120 has been proposing, they were totally dispelled. Thanks to all JPW participants who were able to attend – and we know there were many others who were there in spirit. Our community effort is having results (read on).
Park District officials in attendance. Underscoring the importance of the meeting, Park District Superintendent and CEO Mike Kelly was there, Park District COO Pat Levar was there, Park District Director of Planning and Development Heather Gleason was there, Park District Chief Programming Officer Alonzo Williams was there, Park District Director of Legislative and Community Affairs Kim du Buclet was there, along with several others. Project 120 president Bob Karr was there as well.
Commitments on two key issues.
- (NO) Traffic over the Darrow Bridge: The Park District reported that, contrary to reports and to the Project 120 presentations, the Chicago Department of Transportation is evaluating the Bridge restoration plan with the idea that the uses will be pedestrian, bicycling, and emergency vehicles only, not regular automobile traffic. Alderman Hairston repeated the point for emphasis: there will be no traffic over the Darrow Bridge! There was applause.
- Pavilion on the parking lot: The question was raised as to whether the pavilion could be smaller and/or located elsewhere so as to save the parking lot for parking. Alderman Hairston said that the design of the pavilion should be revisited to ensure that it does not occupy the parking lot space.
Those who have seen Project 120’s gauzy renderings of its proposals know that it has been hard to discern some of the important detail. These clarifications were welcome:
- Basketball courts: Some of Project 120 graphics appear to indicate that the basketball courts just north of Hayes Drive close to the lake would be relocated or perhaps removed as part of Project 120 plans for the “Great Lawn.” While there was confusion among Park District officials as to just what Project 120 was proposing, Alderman Hairston stepped in to indicate that the basketball courts are not being removed or relocated.
- Golf driving range and golf course: The Park District clarified that the proposal under consideration, similar to that in the 1999 Framework Plan, is to move the golf driving range to be adjacent to the golf course while leaving the 18 hole golf course intact.
Major discussion themes. With that many people from Hyde Park, South Shore, and the other neighborhoods interested in the future of Jackson Park, there were inevitably many points of view expressed in the discussion following the Park District’s initial brief presentation. However, some key themes that came up repeatedly included many that we think most likely resonated with many JPW participants:
- Why a pavilion? A number of speakers argued that it is important to preserve open space and trees, that Olmsted advocated open space, and that the importance of the natural beauty and quiet of the area should take precedence over the existing pavilion concept. Alderman Hairston stated that the concept of a pavilion was approved at a community meeting in November, 2013. Jackson Park PW notes that reports of that meeting showed that Park District officials pointed out at the time that the concept needed to be vetted and refined through a community process. That community process is now belatedly beginning to occur.
- Why not instead put resources into bringing our existing Jackson Park facilities up to a standard we could be proud of? Numerous speakers touched on this point.
- How can we insure community input into final Park District decisions? This critical point came up repeatedly in various ways.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Alderman Hairston repeated that the community should drive decisions about Jackson Park. She stated that she will get together with Park District CEO Mike Kelly to develop a procedure and process for community input, which they would then discuss with Project 120’s Bob Karr. Another meeting or meetings would follow. Brenda and Margaret had a chance after the meeting to assure the Alderman that Jackson Park Watch wants to work with her to ensure that community input is decisive.