Jackson Park Watch Update – July 27, 2016

Greetings all,

Breaking news

The Tribune and Sun-Times are both reporting today that the Obama Presidential Center will be located in Jackson Park. In response to these reports, we sent the following message to Michael Strautmanis, vice-president of civic engagement of the Obama Foundation, with whom we met last week (see below):

“If indeed the Obama Presidential Center is to be located in Jackson Park as reports indicate, as coordinators of Jackson Park Watch we wish to welcome the Obama Center to Jackson Park. In keeping with President Obama’s personal commitment to community engagement and history of community involvement, we ask that the Obama Foundation convene a community engagement process to create a common vision for the future of the Obama Presidential Center in our great park, and also ask that all pending plans for changes in the park be set aside in favor of the outcomes of this vital community process.”

Meetings around town

Margaret and Brenda met recently with the leaders of the Friends of the Parks and of Openlands  to discuss shared concerns for the preservation and enhancement of the city’s parks, including in particular JPW concerns about Project 120 proposals.  Such periodic conversations are wonderful opportunities for JPW to bring these organizations up to date on the latest developments in our efforts to promote community input in planning for Jackson Park and to learn from similar issues and efforts in other parks around Chicago.  We greatly appreciate their wise counsel and words of encouragement.

Margaret and Brenda also met last week with representatives of the Obama Foundation – Michael Strautmanis (VP of Civic Engagement) and Roark Frankel (Director of Planning and Construction) – to acquaint them with JPW’s role in promoting community engagement and transparency in planning for Jackson Park and to share community concerns about Project 120 proposals.  While they did not reveal the site for the Obama Presidential Center (surprise, surprise), they did affirm their commitment to including the full South Side community in planning for the Center, wherever it is located.  We look forward to working with them as their plans evolve.

Taking community views to the Park District Commissioners

Knowing that the Park District’s seven appointed commissioners can’t be aware of all that is happening in all of the city parks, Brenda and Margaret have become regulars at the monthly meetings of the Board of Commissioners.  At the July 13 meeting, we used the “People in the Parks” spot on the agenda to share community concerns about Project 120s’ proposed pavilion/music venue and to underscore the need for Project 120 to develop a proposal for a revised, downsized, relocated pavilion without a music venue feature.  We also raised questions about the reasonableness of Project 120’s plan to install Yoko Ono’s “Sky Landing” on Wooded Island this fall when the island may be fenced off entirely, and when, even if the fence were down, the closure of the Darrow Bridge means that Wooded Island has no access to parking or public restrooms.  Look under the “Key Documents” section on the JPW website (http://jacksonparkwatch.org) to see the complete statements to the Commissioners.

Welcome developments in The Trib

The Chicago Tribune seems to have become a forum for discussion of questions relating to the proper usage of public parks. This is a development to applaud!

Following the article on opposition to proposed music venues in Jackson, Douglas and Montrose Parks (www.chicagotribune.com/newslocal/breaking/ct-parks-music-venue-jackson-douglas-montrose-met-20160704-story.html) and the editorial on “Parks and the sweet sound of silence,” (www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-music-in-the-parks-edit-0715-md-20160714.story.html) the Tribune also published last week a follow-up letter by birder Nancy Tikalsky, “Chicago’s parks are for nature — not noise.”

(You can read it at  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/letters/ct-chicago-s-parks-are-for-nature-8212-not-noise-20160721-story.html.)

We know that many other JPW participants submitted letters to the Tribune that were not printed due to space constraints or the pressures of breaking news.  We are very grateful for those efforts, which even though unpublished were important indicators to the editorial staff of  interest in the issue.  In the future, to be sure to get our messages out there, we may want to both send letters to the editor via e-mail and also (for those who are digital subscribers to the Trib) add to the ‘Comments” section following any park-related article.

JPW participants may also be interested in Sunday’s column by Blair Kamin, urging Mayor Emanuel to transform the lakefront site once proposed for the Lucas Museum into a proper park space, green and accessible, without either an intrusive structure or the current sprawling parking lot.

(http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ct-lakefront-parking-lot-kamin-met-0724-20160722-column.html )

What’s new on the JPW website?

You may want to check out additions and improvements to the JPW website.  We’ve redone the opening page to better reflect community views on Project 120 proposals.  We’ve improved the Key Documents page, adding a section with the statements to the monthly meetings of the Park District Board of Commissioners.  And we’ve added the recent Tribune pieces.  Take a look for yourself, and then share with friends who haven’t yet signed on to the JPW g-mail list.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch
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