Jackson Park Watch Update August 12, 2016

Greetings all,

It has been a busy two weeks since the announcement that the Obama Presidential Center would be sited in Jackson Park. That busy-ness is reflected in the length of this Update. Bear with us.

Now what?

It’s a new ball game, as folks like to say. Project 120 is no longer the biggest elephant in the room. Now we have OPC.

To adapt to this new reality, Brenda and Margaret propose expanding JPW’s guiding principles and goals building on what JPW has represented and accomplished to date. We present a first draft below. BUT – we need feedback, critical comments and alternative suggestions, so that we can be sure that as JPW goes forward it is indeed reflecting community concerns.

  1. Continue to insist that a transparent process with inclusive community engagement is essential as plans for the OPC and its impact on Jackson Park are develope
  1. Maximize preservation of existing green space and trees for play, picnics, sports, and other local uses by local park users
  1. Ensure replacement of the track/athletic field within easy walking distance of the Hyde Park Academy High School with an equally high quality (or better) facility without using any additional park acreage and without any disruption in access by students or other community use
  1. Continue to oppose Project 120’s pavilion/music venue proposal; support new buildings in the park only if part of the OPC; otherwise, work to renew and then maintain existing buildings

Please give us feedback at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com. JPW can only be effective if we represent significant community voices!

Talking anew to the Park District’s Board of Commissioners about OPC and Yoko Ono

Margaret and Brenda presented an early statement of JPW’s expanded position to the CPD Commissioners during the “People in the Parks” segment of the August 10 monthly meeting. Noting that a new era had begun for Jackson Park with the announcement of the Obama Presidential Center location, we asked that Project 120’s proposals be set aside and the conversation about planning begin anew with a holistic view of Jackson Park with a particular attention to the needs and wishes of regular users:

Much of the public discussion to date has focused on the role of the Obama Center as a tourist destination, an anchor for a south museum campus that will spur economic development. Amid the hope and frenzy generated by that vision, Jackson Park Watch asks that the Park District, the Obama Foundation, and other responsible parties not lose sight of the importance of Jackson Park as a park — a place to enjoy nature, to play, to gather with family and friends; a place with a community of users who live in the surrounding neighborhoods and whose voices should be heard as the future of Jackson Park is discussed. We urge you, Mr. Kelly and Commissioners, to remember that your primary commitment is not to tourists nor to developers nor to politicians, but to the children and families who use the park on a regular basis and depend on it for recreation and renewal.

We also revisited a topic presented at the June and July meetings – the terms of the Yoko Ono installation on the Wooded Island. As with the Obama Center, “Sky Landing” is no longer a possibility but an emerging reality – construction for the installation began this week and we have just been told that the fence may come down next month to allow for the Sky Landing unveiling– but many questions are still unanswered:

We know that this past Monday work on the concrete base for the Yoko Ono sculpture began on Wooded Island. We know that that base will be clad in marble. We know that the sculpture itself will be installed in about three weeks. We know that plans to remove the existing walkway along the west side of the Osaka Japanese Garden and to reconfigure the fence around the Garden to include the Yoko Ono piece are now being made. These developments add to the questions we have raised in the past and make them more urgent. Who will own the sculpture? Who is paying for it and for its installation? Who will maintain it? At whose expense? What are the plans for the new space that will be created? How will they impact the adjacent nature sanctuary? And how do you intend to manage access to the celebrity art work given that the area remains surrounded by fencing and that, even if that fencing were to be removed, neither parking nor restrooms are readily available? This is a public park. This is public space. The public deserves to know.

 You can find the complete statements at http://jacksonparkwatch.org under ‘key documents.”

A good letter to the Editor

JPW participant Eric Ginsburg wrote a terrific letter “Less is more for Jackson Park” to the Hyde Park Herald, published August 10. You can find it at: http://hpherald.com/letters-to-the-editor/

Community benefits?

Much has been said and written about community benefits since the announcement that the OPC will be located in Jackson Park. Obama Foundation president Martin Nesbitt raised at least a few eyebrows with his claim that there is no need for any community benefits agreements since the Obama Library is in itself a benefit to the community.

That aside, believing as JPW does that the Park is itself a massive benefit to the community and that maintaining as much open parkland as possible for community users is essential, JPW coordinators Brenda and Margaret participated in a community benefit coalition meeting on Wednesday, August 10. We proposed that preserving open space in Jackson Park for local uses by local users should be among the community benefits that the coalition puts forward. While there were many priority items under consideration, the idea of preserving park space for local users was sympathetically received. JPW coordinators will continue to participate in such meetings and will report back.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch


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