While we are still waiting for spring, Jackson Park remains a hub of park activities and concerns.
Midway Plaisance East End Improvement Community Meeting #2
The Park District will host its second community meeting about proposed changes to the eastern tip of the Midway on Tuesday, May 3, 5:30 pm, at South Shore Cultural Center.
This will be an in-person meeting. A presentation by CPD staff and consultants is to include an overview of community feedback since the initial meeting on March 29, a report on the historically significant landscape elements to be restored, and preliminary design ideas for a “universally accessible play space.” The CPD presentation will be available on-line after the meeting, posted on the “Featured Capital Projects” page of the Park District website.
As explained in prior Updates and in a recent letter to the Hyde Park Herald, we have been unimpressed by CPD’s “community engagement” charade and continue to regard its plans for the Midway tip as inappropriate, unsafe, costly, and unlikely to succeed. We submitted our comments and questions to the Park District via its Capital Project Feedback Form, and encourage you to do the same. We hope that these issues will be addressed in the May 3 meeting, either directly or through questions.
There is to be a Q&A session on the Midway project though it is not clear how much time will be allowed as this same meeting is to include also a second presentation, though that is not mentioned on the meeting flyer.
The second topic – “Project Introduction” for the “Jackson Park Plan for Interpretive Materials” – is described on the CPD website. The federal review of plans for the Obama Presidential Center and other changes to Jackson Park that yielded the plan to provide replacement parkland on the Midway tip also provided for mitigation of adverse effects to Jackson Park through the development of a plan for interpretive materials within the park. (Remember that those “adverse effects” are the destruction of the comprehensive Olmsted design for Jackson Park and the loss of approximately 20 acres of public parkland.) Accordingly, the Park District has engaged a consultant team led by Skidmore Owings Merrill (SOM) to help develop materials and programs “to commemorate the cultural and natural historical contributions of Jackson Park and its use by South Side residents.” Presumably the meeting will provide more details.
Park advocates should pay attention to both of these initiatives and try to attend the Tuesday meeting if possible.
Fake news vs. real news
On March 29, U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey dismissed portions of the lawsuit initially filed in April 2021 by Protect Our Parks and six joint plaintiffs in opposition to the construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park. The ruling was widely mis-reported as a complete dismissal of the POP complaint in its entirety.
The Hyde Park Herald got it right, however. The dismissal applied only to state law claims relating to public trust and public land issues. Still pending on the dockets of both the U.S. District Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal are POP’s federal law claims relating to the evaluations of the OPC project by federal agencies with respect to its environmental and historical preservation impacts.
Judge Blakey’s recent ruling allowed the discovery process on POP’s federal claims to resume, although all parties believe it would be helpful to learn first what the Seventh Circuit has to say in regards to the current appeal there. As to the dismissal of the state law claims, the Plaintiffs have asked the District Court to allow the rulings to be appealed, and written arguments on that motion now being submitted for consideration.
A day to celebrate or mourn?
April 26 was Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th birthday, an occasion celebrated by the New York Times with a special insert “Olmsted’s Enduring Legacy.” Olmsted deserves high honor as America’s pioneering and still premier landscape architect, but little attention was given to the date or to Chicago’s historic Olmsted parks by local media nor was there any mention of Chicago in the special insert. Such omissions are tacit recognition of the drastic changes now underway to Olmsted’s design for Jackson Park and Midway Plaisance. Olmsted’s legacy does not endure in Chicago and we wrote the Tribune to lament that loss.
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As always, we thank you.
Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch