To the Editor:
With the siting of the Obama Library in Jackson Park, and expansive talk of a “Museum Campus South”, it is even more important that plans for the rest of Jackson Park get more scrutiny. As the surrounding neighborhood develops and land is sought to relocate the displaced track and athletic fields, there will be increasing pressure to build inside the rest of the park. Some may see the music pavilion on Northerly Island as a model for the development of other parts of Jackson Park.
But the use of one corner of the park for an important new library and museum does not justify sacrificing the remainder of the park. Any additional development in Jackson Park should not be judged simply by how many tourists can be drawn to the South Side. If that were the measure of success, why not also build a casino and a roller coaster?
In addition to the upcoming Obama Library construction, Jackson Park has recently had the Army spend millions to restore its fish and wildlife habitat, Yoko Ono is supposed to install a sculpture next to the Japanese Garden, the Darrow Bridge will remain closed for several years, and Project 120 is proposing a music pavilion to the east of the bridge that would require removing at least a football field’s worth of trees.
Wooded Island and its surroundings are a rare piece of urban wilderness. The Army’s project was undertaken recognizing the “important migratory bird, fish and wildlife habitat within the natural portions of Jackson Park” with “the potential to provide pond, fringe marsh, sedge meadow, savanna and woodland habitat.” Residents from the surrounding neighborhoods treasure the park as a nearby, quiet place to walk, fish, bird watch and picnic. Plans for any additional structures in the park should be vetted through extensive community engagement. Common sense would suggest that such plans take into account the Obama Library design, and that reopening the Darrow Bridge should be a high priority.
Jackson Park is not a blank slate in need of new development. It is hard to imagine there is another natural area in Chicago facing so much change in such a short amount of time. In this case, less is more.