Midway Plaisance East End “Improvement”
On May 3 the Park District hosted the second community meeting about its plan to use the eastern tip of the Midway Plaisance as replacement for recreational space in Jackson Park that is being obliterated by the Obama Presidential Center. Park District staff also attended the May 11 meeting of the Midway Park Advisory Council. In both meetings, the full CPD plan was briefly outlined, but feedback was requested for only one feature – the universally inclusive play space – that is proposed for the center of the site just east of the Cheney-Goode bench.
It was noted at the MPAC meeting that when the community was first informed of the possible designation of the Midway as “replacement” park land — in Spring 2017 – community members responded with concern and questions. The City stated then and repeated again and again that any final decision would have to be approved by the community after extensive public discussion and meetings. Those promises of public engagement were not kept and the community now is being shown a plan codified in the agreements that concluded the federal reviews of the plans for the OPC in Jackson Park. The City and Park District claim that their hands are tied and that they have no choice but to execute the terms that they helped define without full public discussion or review.
Yet, concerns and questions that were posed in 2017 and in 2018 and in 2019, have had to be asked yet again in 2022 and still await answers:
- Will the iconic space envisioned by Olmsted as the link to Jackson Park be respected? In that spirit, the 2000 Midway Framework Plan proposed a large fountain. The current plan will restore historic plantings, tree alleys and walkways. However, the ambitious play facility at its center is at odds with Olmsted’s design in tone, palette and scale, as would surely have been determined if the design have been available for inclusion in the Section 106 review process.
- How will the half-acre wetland be handled? The Herald quoted DPD Associate Director Eleanor Gorski on a visit to MPAC in 2018: “because an underground stream flows down the Midway, it has been prone to chronic flooding issues that two engineering projects in recent memory have failed to fix.” Now the City, perhaps looking for a cheaper option, seems to have forgotten that history. The only recent response to the “how” question has been “regrading,” which seems inadequate and would also represent another variation from Olmsted’s horizontal vision.
- How will the space be made more safely accessible amid the increased traffic congestion brought on by the OPC? Visitors to the space have to cross at least two busy roadways, with little or no parking adjacent or close by. The Park District has said it will have CDOT input at its next meeting.
- How can an active recreational facility be safe and enjoyable for young children and for people with various impairments? The site is surrounded on three sides by fast-moving, exhaust-spewing cars and on the fourth side by loud freight and passenger trains, and seems to require protective features.
The design images presented at the meetings and an audio recording of the May 3 session (including Q&As) are available on the Featured Capital Projects page of the Park District website [select “Midway Plaisance East End Improvement,” scroll down to “Meetings” and select “Video” for May 3].
Comments on the proposals for the play space and the other proposed changes to the Midway site should be submitted by May 20 via the Park District’s Capital Project Feedback Form in order for them to be addressed at the subsequent public meeting on June 21. That third community meeting will be another virtual session via Zoom. Including your email address on the Feedback Form will ensure that you receive notices about that and subsequent meetings.
Remembering what is lost
Also included in the Park District’s May 3 meeting was a brief introduction to another mitigation initiative prescribed by the Section 106 Memorandum of Agreement – the Jackson Park Plan for Interpretive Materials. It is listed as a separate Featured Capital Project, but to view the slide presentation and remarks made on May 3 look at the video listed above for the Midway Plaisance project.
This project too is on a tight schedule. There is the promise of meeting and feedback opportunities throughout the summer, but no specifics yet. The plan is to be finalized in October 2022 and implemented by February 2023. So, if you have comments or suggestions about themes or specific people or events to be celebrated or about the mode(s) of presentation, don’t delay. Be sure to use the Feedback Form associated with this specific project.
Long, hot summers ahead?
With the beginning of road work in Jackson Park in mid-April to accommodate the construction of the OPC, South Side residents (and those far beyond) have been subjected to tortuous delays, not only during rush hours. Signage to redirect southbound drivers approaching 57th Drive through or around the maze has been more confusing than helpful. Accidents have occurred and on occasion back-ups have extended to Oakwood Blvd. This past Friday a multivehicle crash at the 57th Drive intersection during peak rush hour reportedly brought southbound cars and city buses to a standstill for some 90 minutes. Now an additional, life-threatening concern has been exposed by the tragic shooting around the Golden Lady on Tuesday night. Ambulances dispatched to the scene – where six were critically wounded – reported difficulties navigating the jumble of parked cars and street/lane closures. That’s an ominous start to a summer of hot nights and crowded parks and likely for years ahead.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!
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 email@example.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 directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.
- You can contribute via PayPal here. (If you encounter difficulties with PayPal, please let us know.)
- You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 67 E. Madison St., Suite 1817, Chicago IL 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters. Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch.
As always, we thank you.
Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch