Jackson Park Watch Update – August 28, 2020

Greetings, all,

Significant opposition to proposed Section 106 MOA  

In our last Update we shared JPW’s statement rejecting the draft Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) proposed by the Federal Highway Administration as the conclusion of the Section 106 review of the proposal for siting the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.  Having seen strong statements similarly refusing to sign off on that draft from numerous other well-known and respected consulting parties, we asked FHWA whether these statements would be publicly released.  Upon learning that the answer was no, JPW has now posted these on the JPW website  to help make clear the strength and breadth of the opposition to this tortured and completely inadequate proposed MOA.  It remains to be seen if the FHWA will pay heed to these strong and legitimate voices  as it prepares a revised version of the MOA.  There is no schedule set for that revision. 

Protect Our Parks to persevere

On August. 21, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in the lawsuit filed by Protect Our Parks (POP) against the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago, challenging the transfer of public park land in Jackson Park to the Obama Foundation for the proposed Obama Presidential Center

While this is couched in legalese, these few things are clear: 

  • The POP lawsuit is not dead. The Circuit Court focused on the procedural  issue of what aspects of the suit could be heard in federal court.  In one or perhaps multiple venues, federal and state,  POP will continue to pursue hearings on the merits of the issues it has raised. 
  • Because the Seventh Circuit Court remanded the case back to the District Court, Judge Blakey’s original findings are moot.
  • If the federal reviews now underway ultimately approve the OPC/road changes as proposed (which seems sadly all too likely), POP has legal grounds to challenge any attempt by the Obama Foundation to begin construction while litigation is proceeding.

In a statement issued on August 27, POP stressed that it fully supports the construction of an Obama Presidential Center on the South Side in any location that is not inside of an historic and dedicated public park and that POP had particularly advocated for the privately owned site adjacent to Washington Park.  

New forces in play

Separate from the POP lawsuit and from the federal reviews, JPW thinks that externalities such as the direct costs of the OPC to the City, the effects on the lakefront of apparently relentless climate-change-driven lake-level rise, and the fallout effects of COVID on tourism in Chicago mean that it is quite unclear whether and when construction of the OPC will begin and exactly what form it would take at that time.


Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we will welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you.

You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here.
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch.

Advance Notice:  It seems possible that, due to administrative issues, JPW may

no longer be able to accept contributions via PayPal after September 15.

We will keep you posted.

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch

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