JPW Update – March 18, 2016

Thanks to everyone who attended the Jackson Park Advisory Council meeting Monday evening. About 45 people were there, many JPW supporters.

We presented for discussion a proposed process to enable community review of the specific proposals being advanced by Project 120. The first step would be to convene representatives from key organizations and groups to plan the best method of getting inclusive community input from a wide range of sources.

The need for such broad community review has become even more pressing now that we have a copy of the July 2014 MOU between the Park District and Project 120. This MOU envisions replacing the 1999 Jackson Park Framework Plan that was developed through a multi-step, inclusive process involving a wide range of organizations and individuals with a Revised Framework Plan that incorporates Project 120’s plans. For this Revised Framework Plan and the Project 120 plans it includes to have any legitimacy, its key components clearly must be submitted to the same sort of inclusive community review.

There was broad support for the community input process we presented. Importantly, Project 120 president Bob Karr was at the meeting. He reiterated his support for an inclusive community input process. He further said that he would not move forward with the pavilion plan if there was not community support for it.

We will continue working to get an effective community input process in place, reaching out to the Park District and Project 120 and others, and will keep you posted. At the same time, with your help, we can begin to develop a list of the key elements of Project 120 plans that need community review and input. We would welcome your thoughts about the top three to five items that should be on such a list. Please send your ideas to .

Another piece of JPAC business: The minutes of the January 11 JPAC meeting were corrected to accurately reflect that motion that was made and adopted at that meeting: “Moved that JPAC should reconsider its vote in support the Project 120 concept of a pavilion east of the Darrow Bridge and should provide a forum for more open discussion and community input on the pavilion concept and other aspects of the Project 120 proposals.”

Communication problems: We are aware that there transmission difficulties with the March 11 Update due to the size of the attachments. If you were unable to receive or access the attachments, you can download the MOU or the 1999 Jackson Park Framework Plan here.

JPW Update – March 11, 2016

MOU: We now have the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the Park District and Project 120. Signed on July 15, 2014, it runs through August 2017, and gives Project 120 surprising latitude over Jackson Park in several ways:

  • It creates a Revised Jackson Park Framework Plan to replace the framework plan that was developed in 1999 through an inclusive process (see below).
  • It authorizes Project 120’s development of the “New Phoenix Pavilion and Cultural Zone.”
  • It authorizes Project 120’s development of “The Garden of the Phoenix,” defined as the area extending from the south side of the Museum of Science and Industry, around the Columbian Basin, to the north end of Wooded Island, and including the site of the original Phoenix Pavilion, the Osaka Japanese Garden, and over 120 cherry trees.

The MOU also approves Project 120’s development of plans for the “Great Lawn Project,” and specifies that CPD and Project 120 will continue to work on the development of the Revised Jackson Park Framework Plan. (You can access the MOU here; the first 12 pages contain the formal agreement.)

The MOU details only the arrangements for the US Army Corps of Engineers GLFER Project that is now underway; specifications for other projects will be defined in additional agreements. While the MOU requires Park District approval of any actual work on subsequent projects, it does not explicitly require any community input beyond normal Park District requirements for such approval, if such exist. (We are investigating just what those are).

1999 Jackson Park Framework Plan: The prior framework plan for Jackson Park was developed in 1999 through an inclusive process involving a large number of community organizations and institutions and a wide range of individuals. (You can download a 12mb copy of the framework plan here. Pages 16-18 list defined priorities; pages 36-37 and 41-43 describe the community input process and the participants. Note some pages are out of order.)

The fact that such an open and inclusive process was used in developing the 1999 plan is a key precedent. While there is some continuity between the 1999 plan and some elements of the revised plan outlined by Project 120 in the MOU, it is significant that proposals for major new projects have not been submitted for community review and approval, and that the new plan is, in essence, a top-down invention. Together the MOU and the example of the 1999 plan underscore the importance of our continuing to work to ensure community input and participation in decision-making about the plans that Project 120 has been advancing.

Coming up at this Monday’s JPAC meeting
March 14, 7:00 pm, Jackson Park Fieldhouse, 64th and Stony Island. Street parking is available

Meeting minutes: Approval of the minutes of the prior meeting will be the first order of business, and we want to ensure that the meeting minutes from January 11 accurately reflect the resolution that was passed. The motion made by Margaret Schmid and seconded by Brenda Nelms stated:

“Moved that JPAC should reconsider its vote in support of the Project 120 concept of a pavilion east of the Darrow Bridge and should provide a forum for more open discussion and community input on the pavilion concept and other aspects of the Project 120 proposals.” (moved by Margaret Schmid, seconded by Brenda Nelms.)

The draft minutes of the meeting read, however:

“As adjusted from the floor and stated from the chair: JPAC will continue to evaluate, and hold open discussions regarding Project 120 or other pavilion concepts or proposals for east of the Darrow bridge and whether to support these. JPAC also supports there being well advertised public meetings with robust input on the same.”

We simply want to ensure that the minutes are accurate.

Community input process: As indicated in our resolution, we have hoped to come to an agreement with JPAC leaders that JPAC and JPW would work with other community partners to create an inclusive community-based process to review Project 120 plans and had asked JPAC president Louise McCurry to add a relevant agenda item. Thus we were glad to see this item in a JPAC meeting reminder sent 3/10/16:

Next, Representatives from a new group, Jackson Park Watch, will introduce their organization and present ideas for robust public input in park planning, particularly Project 120 and concepts of facilities such as a visitors’ center/pavilion etc. (Persons from the Park District and Project 120 will be present but there will not be presentations or an extended q and a. An overall time will be agreed upon.)

We look forward to this discussion, and trust that you all will join in! After the meeting, we will assess next steps and will be in touch.

Benign neglect has not helped Jackson Park (Hyde Park Herald – March 9, 2016)

To the Editor:

Ms. Newhouse is correct (Herald, March 2, 2016). The Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary occupies a significant portion of Wooded Island in Jackson Park, and almost all of the park is a haven for migratory and resident birds. Squirrels and other mammals, turtles, fishes, and a vast array of invertebrates — insects, crayfish, worms thrive there despite the temporary disruption of Project 120. They will continue to do so.

Benign neglect has not helped Jackson Park, nor will it. Over the years, non-indigenous plants and trees, including buckthorn, white poplar and garlic mustard took over woodland, grassy fields, and lagoons, making the park unsuitable, even unlivable, for many native species.

On a broader scale, benign neglect led to the breakdown of physical structures — roofs of buildings decayed, and concrete walls crumbled. Benches, walkways, and playgrounds, even our beloved Darrow Bridge succumbed to the powerful forces of nature. And, when a park’s superstructure is neglected, at what point does benign neglect morph into overt abuse?

All park-goers have seen the results of such abuse — accumulation of filth in open areas and underused buildings, deliberately ruined benches and park equipment, damaged and often destroyed trees and other vegetation, and the too-common practices of trading in drugs and sex.

Project 120 addresses all of these issues. Experts in park history, ecology, and geology are already improving the ecological balance within the park. The park’s infrastructure will be stabilized with improved walkways and bridges so that once again it is safe to look for birds, engage in photography, or simply stroll in a superb natural garden. “Neglect” must no longer be a part of Jackson Park. Parks must be safe, beautiful places for all to enjoy, respect, and become a part of.

Project 120’s organizers have held several public meetings to encourage open-ended discussion about the future of Jackson Park, Washington Parks, and the Midway, most recently on Feb. 8 at the Washington Park Refectory. These meetings are publicly announced — all concerned individuals are welcome to attend.

Ms. Newhouse, please visit Jackson Park to see it change and grow. You will be impressed with what is there, and what it promises to become.

Guided tours of Wooded Island take place the last Saturday of each month, beginning at 10 a.m., at the south bridge of the Island. We hope to see you on March 26.

Frances S. Vandervoort
Nature Trail Coordinator
Jackson Park Advisory Council

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JPW Update – March 7, 2016

MOU: JPW coordinators Brenda and Margaret have continued their search for information relating to Project 120’s plans and process. The MOU (memorandum of understanding) between Project 120 and the Chicago Park District seems important as well as elusive, despite requests at the Feb. 8 workshop and subsequently. Further encouraged by a conversation with Erma Tranter (see below), JPW has submitted a FOIA request to the Park District for a copy.

Recent Meetings:
Margaret and Brenda met with Erma Tranter, former president of Friends of the Parks and someone very familiar with much relevant Jackson Park history. She highlighted the importance of MOUs to understanding what private entitites can do in a public park, explaining that an MOU will define very specifically the work area, the timetable, and the scope of what can be done, and that outside entities can raise funds only for things/areas covered in a MOU.

We also met with Project 120’s Bob Karr. Karr repeated the statement he made at the February 8 public workshop about desiring and in fact – he said – needing community input. He said he does not want to move forward with anything that the community does not want, the pavilion being a case in point. We said that JPW completely agrees with the critical importance of community input and participation in decision-making and expressed our willingess to work together to that end. We wait to see if something positive develops and will keep you posted.


  • The next meeting of the Jackson Park Advisory Council will be Monday, March 14, at 7:00 pm at the Jackson Park Fieldhouse at 64th Street and Stony Island. We hope that many of you will be there. There is ample street parking close at hand.
  • Approval of the minutes of the well-attended January 11 meeting may be contentious, since the resolution that was adopted regarding Project 120 has not been reflected accurately in the draft minutes included in the JPAC Newsletter. We will bring to the meeting copies of the wording of the resolution as we believe it was presented in January and will also distribute that to JPW members with a meeting reminder later this week. We have also asked that the agenda for the meeting include a discussion of the process for community input into the plans for Jackson Park being developed by Project 120.
  • Remember that you qualify as a voting member if you have attended two meetings in the past twelve months and have filled out a membership form. Payment of dues is not required.

Jackson Park is not for profit (Hyde Park Herald – March 2, 2016)

To the Editor:

Jackson Park is a sanctuary. It is a haven. Jackson Park is everyone’s Sanctuary. Jackson Park is not for profit. It is not for anyone’s exploitation.

My highest priority is the protection and preservation of the Wooded Island, the bird sanctuary and the Bowling Green. For 50 years I have cared about Jackson Park. Also, Jackson Park is in the midst of a quiet residential area.

Benign neglect is far preferable to the 120 Project encroachment or any project of its ilk.

Thank you for your attention and concern.

Kathie Newhouse

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JPW Update – February 17, 2016

 JPW coordinators Brenda and Margaret continue to work at gathering information and getting the word out.  And the word IS getting out!  There have been terrific letters to the editor in the Hyde Park Herald this week and last ( ). The Herald featured a big article about the 2/8 Project 120 Public Workshop on the front page of its 2/17 paper edition.  (It’s online at .)  

Brenda and Margaret have been meeting with key people with a stake in Jackson Park both to gather information and to share JPW concerns.  Recent meetings include:

State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie, alerted by Jackson Park Watch communications, requested a briefing from the Chicago Park District and invited Brenda to participate (Margaret was out of town). Kim du Buclet, Park District Director of Legislative and Community Affairs, attended along with Robert Karr, president of Project 120, who provided an overview of that initiative.   Currie had many questions, including “Where is the Park District in this?” She stressed to Karr the absolute importance of getting community input and buy-in on any plans for the parks.

• We met with Lauren Moltz, president of the board of Friends of The Parks, to raise questions and concerns.  Moltz, a Hyde Parker as many of you may know, shares our commitment to promoting an open and inclusive process for assessing any proposals for Jackson Park and our sense that that openness has not yet been achieved.  She also clarified that Friends of the Parks has no formal “partnership” with Project 120 (contrary to the listing on the Project 120 website).

• Looking for better understanding and points of agreement, we invited Louise McCurry, Jackson Park Advisory Council president, for coffee and conversation. Louise recruited Gary Ossewaarde, JPAC secretary , and Frances Vandervoort, long-time JPAC member and leader, to join the discussion, which focused on the evolution of thinking and planning for a structure on the Music Court.  All agreed that there should be community input for such plans, though, to our minds, the mechanisms for that input are ill-defined;  communication will continue.  

Susannah Ribstein and Eric Rogers, who live in South Shore, have joined Jackson Park Watch in part because of their concerns for Project 120 plans (or rather  lack of plans) for that end of the park.  Both have expertise in current communications technologies and recently met with Brenda and Margaret to discuss how JPW can move to the next level in communicating with community members. Look for some expanded capacities  in the near future thanks to their expertise and generosity.

Next steps:  Try to understand the role, goals, and processes of the Chicago Park District in the development of the Jackson Park Framework Plan, especially in light of the fact that CPD’s formal agreement with Project 120 covers only the US Army Corps of Engineers GLFER project now underway.

Questions, comments, ideas?  Let us hear from you!


Project 120 getting ahead of itself (Hyde Park Herald – February 17, 2016)

To the Editor:

I attended the February 8, 2016, presentation by Project 120 representatives and am concerned about their plans to build a music pavilion in Jackson Park east of Darrow Bridge and to put a regular traffic-bearing road across the bridge. The resulting noise and crowds are not what Jackson Park needs, nor what I expect the Army Corps of Engineers anticipated when it allocated several million dollars to restore the habitat in the park. Moreover Project 120’s planned building would have large glass windows, a death trap for the birds that migrate through the park in spring and fall.

I am also concerned that Project 120 is getting a bit ahead of itself. While their website currently says, “Project 120 Chicago and the Chicago Park District have selected” an architect to design a music pavilion, the Chicago Park District has not even approved the project, let alone selected an architect. I gathered from the Feb. 8 meeting that Project 120 and the Park District entered into a Memorandum of Understanding only for documenting Project 120’s funding commitment for the Army’s restoration project and having Project 120’s landscape architect participate in the planning of the project. If that is correct, then now that the restoration project is well underway Project 120 no longer has the right to speak on behalf of the Park District about future plans for the rest of Jackson Park.

But those of us who use Jackson Park regularly and want to preserve it as an urban wilderness should be speaking up now. Yes, Darrow Bridge needs to be fixed and it would be wonderful if there was more interpretive material for park visitors. But now that the Army project is in its final phases, perhaps the park’s next door neighbor, the Museum of Science and Industry, could be persuaded to help out by guiding some of its visitors out of its doors, across a repaired Darrow Bridge, and onto a newly planted Wooded Island.

Jackson Park is an oasis that does not need a new permanent building, or a new road cutting through the park, despite what Project 120 says.

Thank you,
Eric Ginsburg

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Project 120 will adversely affect daily commute for residents (Hyde Park Herald – February 10, 2016)

To the Editor:

If you commute using Cornell Drive, Project 120’s plans are going to affect you. Project 120 plans to have traffic drive over the Clarence Darrow Bridge. In addition to affecting the Paul H Douglas Sanctuary on Wooded Isle which begins about 40 feet away, this new road will make Jackson Park noisier and less safe for families having picnics. The short-cut between LSD and Cornell Drive will mean there will be an additional stoplight on Cornell Drive. The parking area in back of the Museum will be removed when the Phoenix Pavilion/Music Building is built and so the plan is to remove 2 lanes of traffic from Cornell Drive and use those lanes for street parking. This will certainly affect that people who commute and at some points when there is a turning lane on Cornell Drive, there will only be one lane going each way.

The traffic light at LSD and Science Drive needs adjusting. I tried to report this on the 311 hotline but was unsuccessful in getting this issue addressed.

About the time they started working on wooded isle, the city changed the timing of the stoplight at the intersection of Science Drive/ Lake Shore Drive causing an additional back-up every week day on LSD. The light used to be triggered by the weight of your car when your were driving out of the parking lot behind the Museum of Science and Industry. Now the light regularly changes when no one is waiting to exit the Museum parking lot causing a back-up in traffic. This commuting problem could be fixed right now. However, once the road connecting LSD and Cornell goes through the museum lot, this will be a permanent bottle neck for commuters.

We need some ideas for how to get the Darrow Bridge fixed for pedestrians if IDOT won’t fix it unless it is road that links LSD and Cornell. Not sure if that is true, but let’s suppose it is. Why not try to sell the name. Give Yoko Ono first shot at it? the Darrow Lennon Bridge??

Need more reasons to be against project 120’s music venue/concession stand/pavilion?

Chicago has a lot of music venues, but not many natural areas city people who visit natural areas (no buildings, lots of plants and animals) are happier and healthier music venue building will destroy habitat used by migrating birds music venue building will destroy habitat for other critters music venue building will cut down 30 more trees music venue building will take away space for dog walking parking area behind museum will be taken away reunion/picnicking areas will be gone more noise pollution is looking for your comments. We’ll post your letters to Leslie Hairston (you don’t have to be in her district to comment). If you want to leave a comment about your love for Jackson Park — call 773 913 2030 and leave a message— (it will mention a dog training school, that is the right number ) we will transcribe it and put it on the testimonial page of the website

Jane Masterson

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Proposed loud music venue out of sync with Jackson Park (Hyde Park Herald – February 10, 2016)

To the Editor:

I am writing to express my concern about the Phoenix Pavilion with Music Court that is planned for Jackson Park, adjacent to the Museum of Science and Industry, as part of the Project 120 collaboration. This is an area of the park that I see many people using for parking, family picnics, dog walking, birding and nature walks. A friend and I wrote to Alderman Hairston’s office about this concern some months ago, but received no response.

It seems to me that a loud music venue would not be in harmony with the natural environment. We already have the Northerly Island music venue, not so far away, in what was “supposed” to be a nature reserve on the former Meigs Field.

The great American landscape architects -Frederick Law Olmsted and Daniel Burnham -must be spinning in their graves as they hear about yet another encroachment on sacred parkland. Of course they lived in a bygone era when pubic figures were long sighted and not simply motivated by money and profit.

I agree with the Japanese belief that time spent in nature lowers stress levels and can even help the immune system to fight cancer and other disease, as mentioned on this Happy Parks Happy People website:

Marge Ishmael

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