Community concerns about golf course merger still not addressed
Over 200 people, including many Update readers, were in the room for the Park District’s golf course meeting Wednesday, January 31, at which the latest version of the proposal for the Jackson Park and South Shore courses was unveiled. The presentation materials from the meeting available on the South Lakefront Framework Plan website are difficult to download and to read. Better graphics of the new routing plan can be found on the boosterish website golf.com. The meeting was also covered by the Sun-Times, Tribune and Herald.
Here are some meeting highlights:
- Park District CEO Mike Kelly is back out in front on this issue, featured at the meeting and in numerous media reports.
- While there were some tweaks to the plan first presented on June 21, 2017, the basic design remains the same and the main concerns about the design have not been addressed.
- The proposed expanded/merged golf course still extends beyond the footprints of the existing golf courses.
- The proposed course still takes out the heart of the South Shore Nature Sanctuary, obliterating the lakefront path and fire pit circles on the eastern-most point, and turns that space, with its stunning views north over the lake, into Hole 15.
- While additional spaces identified as natural areas have been introduced between fairways, they are very fragmented and narrow and would not have wildlife conservation value. Nor would they provide peaceful places so important to human visitors for passive recreation and enjoyment.
- The recreational fields in Jackson Park and South Shore have not been replaced. The South Shore beach is smaller, with about half of the current beach shown planted with grasses, presumably to add to the claim of replacement natural areas.
- Overall, only high level information was made available to the public, with little detail.
- Costs remain a major concern:
- To build the course: Kelly stated that he intends to raise $30 million from private donors for the construction of the golf course; there was no information on how much has been raised so far. He also stated that the underpasses needed for the plan would cost taxpayers $30 million, but did not reveal where those funds would come from. Nor did he address the other major costs associated with the project – for the closure of Marquette Drive, for the planned new beach house , or for shoring up the lake edge along the South Shore course.
- To use the course: Despite Mike Kelly’s statement that Chicago golfers would pay no more than $50, adequate information about the fee schedule – including when the most affordable fee times would be scheduled – is still lacking. There are still no assurances that current existing golfers would be able to continue to afford or have access to the course.
- To operate the course: Questions about a viable business plan for the merged course were not addressed. There was no information about projected use of the new course or about possible PGA tournaments and the financial arrangements they would entail.
- New themes: Mike Kelly and Beau Welling, the actual golf course designer who gave the presentation while frequently invoking Tiger Woods’ name, introduced these new emphases:
- It’s all about the kids (over and over).
- It’s all about bringing the community together. (One of the changes would be to locate the main club house south of what is now Marquette and just west of Jeffrey. It was described as the “community clubhouse,” where people from the Jackson Park Highlands neighborhood could find a “food and beverage outlet.”)
- It’s all about serving local golfers. “The last thing we want to do is to make the course too difficult.”
- The main improvement: By relocating some of the fairways, what is now Marquette Drive would become a multi-use pedestrian path, and some of the existing mature trees would be preserved.
The presentation on January 31 was just that – a presentation. No questions were taken after the speakers concluded. Attendees were told to look at the boards and talk with staff. No additional meeting(s) has been scheduled. If you were unable to voice your concerns that evening or if you were one of the many who were not able to attend the meeting due to the last-minute scheduling, you can submit your comments on the South Lakefront Framework Plan website.
Your views matter! You can also express your concerns directly to:
- Park District CEO Mike Kelly: Kelly@chicagoparkdistrict.com
- Alderman Leslie Hairston: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Chicago Parks Golf Alliance Director Brian Hogan: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hyde Park Herald: email@example.com
- Chicago Tribune: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chicago Sun-Time: email@example.com
- Crain’s Chicago Business: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pro-OPC rally planned for mid-February
Those who have been following the schedule for the Plan Commission and Section 106/NEPA review processes now underway will have noted the listing of a public meeting in mid-February to prepare for the Plan Commission’s April hearing. This “preparatory” meeting is to be hosted by the Obama Foundation, CDOT, and the Park District. Since a meeting of this sort of unusual, JPW has written to Obama Foundation President David Simas, Park District CEO Mike Kelly, and CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld to ask for information. In the meantime, JPW has learned from other sources that this is expected to be a pep rally akin to the Obama Foundation’s first (and last) public meeting at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place on September 14, which featured a marching band and a live-streamed appearance by former President Obama. As we learn more, we will share our information.
Another problematic CDOT proposal
As we continue to review the CDOT application for all of the road changes that the Obama Foundation wants to require, we noted with some amazement that CDOT proposes to narrow Cornell Drive between 57th and 59th Streets to one lane in either direction, allowing on-street parking in that segment in order to make up for some of the 150 parking spaces it would ban on Hayes Drive. CDOT euphemistically terms this a “road diet,” but it would likely be called a “bottleneck” (or more) by the drivers forced to merge at that point. What a concept!
Expert counsel is critical to our ability to raise key questions and pursue community concerns. Please consider a contribution (or a second one). Your check can be sent to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. We thank you!
Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch