Greetings all,

This is a crazy time. JPW coordinators share the angst, but we are keeping on.  You can help by submitting comments or questions to both the Park District and the Obama Foundation – see *** below.

Now: the road closure proposal

Proposals to slice and dice Jackson Park into disjointed pieces keep coming fast and furious! The latest is the Obama Foundation idea – just recently “floated” although it has been out there for several years – of closing Cornell Drive between 60th and 67th (see http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/obamalibrary/ct-obama-library-roadways-met-20170127-story.html). Again we see a proposal put out there by one special interest without full information or attention to park-wide traffic circulation issues, a proposal that raises a host of questions:

  • While many would love to see more parkland, just what would happen to all that traffic?
  • How about a traffic study that is publicly released? (JPW knows that a study was done by the University and given to the Obama Foundation a couple of years ago, but has been unable to secure a copy.)
  • What would it cost us, the taxpayers?
  • Where is the plan for community input?
  • Where is the comprehensive plan for Jackson Park as a whole that is necessary to put such a proposal into perspective and context?

In today’s DNAInfo (see link below), Alderman Leslie Hairston expressed major concerns about the impact of the proposed road closure on traffic through Jackson Park. Even more importantly, to quote the article:

Hairston has expressed concerns in the past that the large number of projects planned for Jackson Park are too siloed and progressing without enough attention on how they will all interact with each other. “I would like to look at the totality,” Hairston said.

As calls for an overall plan for the whole of Jackson Park gain traction, this is great news. Please take time to thank Hairston at ward05@cityofchicago.org.


Meeting with the Obama Foundation

JPW coordinators Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid recently met with Obama Foundation V.P. for civic engagement Michael Strautmanis and posed questions about the road closure idea. They also urged the Obama Foundation leadership to:

  • launch a community engagement process to review and comment on plans for the Obama Library building(s) and landscaping while they are being developed, not after,
  • take an active and public role in the search for a suitable new location for the athletic field that it is displacing, and
  • work with the Park District on an overall plan for the entire park before it is hopelessly segmented.

In response, Strautmanis stated that the Obama Foundation will move quickly to hold public discussions with community groups about the development of the designs for the Obama Presidential Center with the goal of having final designs by the end of 2017. However, he could not yet announce a specific schedule of meetings or the groups to be invited. Strautmanis also expressed the Foundation’s strong interest in and commitment to working with the Park District and the community to develop a comprehensive plan for Jackson Park that would both preserve and enhance the park for local users and accommodate visitors to the Obama Presidential Center.

***Strautmanis also emphasized that the Obama Foundation is seeking comments on what it should do as it launches a program focused on citizenship. One obvious answer is to begin by working at the local level. JPW encourages submission of comments encouraging the Obama Foundation to be a model of community engagement by working with the Park District – and pushing it if needed – to ensure substantive community input on all of the many plans now afloat to make massive changes in historic Jackson Park. Comments (and questions) can be submitted at https://www.obama.org/your-voice/.

More on the golf course

As the SmithGroupJJR engineering study of the South Shore and Jackson Park golf courses proceeds, more intriguing details surface. For example, costs: in a recent article (http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/former-emanuel-aide-out-of-the-shadows-on-golf-project/), it was estimated that the underpass at 67th and South Shore Drive could cost at least $11m. Where is that money coming from?

More information on the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance is essential. JPW coordinators Nelms and Schmid will shortly meet with Brian Hogan, one of the members of the CPGA board of directors and its publicist, and will share what they learn.

On the positive side, Alderman Leslie Hairston has invited Jackson Park Watch to participate in the golf course advisory group she is setting up. Brenda Nelms will be representing JPW and keeping us informed.

***Also on the mildly positive side: In addition to the initial Q&A that it prepared in mid-January, the Park District has now posted on its website homepage a button for submitting “comments, concerns, or questions” about the golf course proposal (http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/ – scroll down and look on the left hand side). JPW has asked whether the comments will be answered privately or made public, and has not received any answer to date. Nonetheless, JPW encourages everyone to submit comments and questions as events warrant.

Speaking of comments:

We know that some people encountered difficulties utilizing the link to the Friends of the Parks survey form in a recent JPW Update. If you haven’t been able to fill out their survey, we encourage you to try again here (http://tinyurl.com/gmxdflg).

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Coordinators, Jackson Park Watch
Like us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch


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Jackson Park Watch Update – January 14, 2017

Greetings all,

JPW Issues in the spotlight

Transparency!  Community input on major decisions!  Priority in Jackson Park for local uses and local users!   These issues, first defined by JPW with regard to Project 120’s plans, have now taken front and center stage as pushback against the Chicago Park District’s plan to for an elite golf course in Jackson Park and South Shore grows.  A partial survey of recent print media shows the JPW concerns are widespread:

Yesterday’s 01/13/17 Tribune editorial takes up the issue, with a headline asserting “Big plans on the South Side for a Tiger Woods Course can’t shut out locals.”  The editorial raises major concerns about backroom decision-making, the lack of community input, and potential adverse impacts on local park uses and park users.  Read the full editorial at:


A Tribune article (01/12/17) highlighted the contradiction between Park District assertions that the plan was “not a done deal” and the Park Board’s decision the day before to move ahead with a contract to start on the project.  Read the article at http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/golf/ct-jackson-park-golf-course-begins-met-20170111-story.html.

A Sun-Times article (01/10/17) highlighted a call by Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry for the Park District board to call off a vote for the contract starting work.  Read the article at http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/park-board-urged-to-call-off-vote-on-golf-course-contract/

There have been multiple articles in the Hyde Park Herald and DNAInfo as well as in other sources.  An interview with JPW’s Margaret Schmid aired on Chicago Tonight on 01/11/17, and the controversy was included in last night’s Chicago Tonight’s Week in Review.

What’s next?

Park District CEO Mike Kelly will be at Alderman Leslie Hairston’s January 24 ward meeting to talk about the golf course.  JPW and others will be urging a huge turnout.  PLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO BE THERE – NUMBERS SPEAK VOLUMES.  The meeting will be from 6 to 8 at the South Shore Fine Arts Academy, 1415 E. 70th St. There is a small parking lot off of Dorchester, to the west of the school, and there is free parking on the streets.  You will hear from us again before this meeting with more information, including, we hope, the exact time Mr. Kelly will be there.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Coordinators, Jackson Park Watch
Like us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

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Jackson Park Watch Update – January 2, 2017


Thanks to everyone who has been with us from the beginning – January 2016 – and to all who have joined us along the way. Our message is getting out there and is having an impact. We want to keep growing the JPW network, so please share this widely, and ask your friends and neighbors to sign on to receive Jackson Park Watch Updates (they can e-mail jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com with “sign me up”).

In this Update:

  • Park District officials admit no Board vote on Sky Landing sculpture, assert none needed
  • Golf course plan revealed as private deal with, once again, no Board vote
  • “No fishing in lagoons” said to be only temporary; now sign needs revision

Sky Landing FOIA leads to surprising assertions

JPW’s latest FOIA asking about the approval process for the Sky Landing sculpture on Wooded Island yielded a Construction and Donation Agreement seemingly signed after the sculpture was installed. (Those wishing a copy of the Construction and Donation Agreement can e-mail jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will send you a copy. It will be posted on the JPW website in the near future.)

When JPW’s Brenda Nelms raised questions about the apparent date discrepancy and other issues at the Dec. 14 CPD Board meeting (see 12-14-16-b-nelms-statement-to-park-district-board), she was interrupted by Park District CEO Michael Kelly and Board President Jesse Ruiz, who called upon the Park District’s general counsel Tim King, who was seated in the audience.  In response to the question from Ruiz as to whether there was anything the Board should have reviewed and voted on, King responded first that the installation was not something that CPD’s Park Enhancements Committee needed to review as it was part of the Mayor’s initiative for public art, an assertion counter to the history of the project as we know it. He further asserted that because no Park District money was involved, there was no need for the Park District board to vote on it either.  On the face of it, this seems to indicate that if someone has both an idea for a sculpture and the money to cover the costs and if Mike Kelly (or perhaps Mayor Emanuel) likes the idea, it’s a done deal.

King’s statements raise interesting issues: Are there no criteria? Is there no official vetting process for permanent art installations beyond Mike Kelly? What about a religious theme? Overtly sexual themes? Or, say, a gilded statute of a current political leader? Clearly, this is something we will pursue further.

PGA golf course process questioned

The announcement by Mayor Emanuel and Park District CEO Kelly of a $30 million plan to “upgrade” the existing and much loved Jackson Park golf course to PGA standards – again without community input or Park District Board approval – immediately raised the familiar questions of transparency and community engagement among others. (see our December 17 Jackson Park Watch Update.)

As it happens, not long after that announcement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel released 2,700 pages of official communications from his personal e-mail account in response to a lawsuit by the Better Government Association. Reviewing them, Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet found e-mail traffic between the Mayor and Mike Kelly, among others, discussing the golf course plan as far back as August. ( http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/sweet-rahm-emails-reveal-secret-golf-course-planning/) Jackson Park Watch was credited as a source in Sweet’s article and was also included in coverage of questions about the golf course proposal in a report on NBC 5 Chicago News. (http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/emanuel-emails-chicago-south-side-golf-course-408341915.html)

Much scrutiny of the proposed golf course deal as well as more review of what else might be in the Mayor’s e-mail stash are sure to follow. Stay tuned!

That new “no fishing” rule

JPW has been questioning some of the restrictions posted on Wooded Island after it was reopened to the public, in particular the rule “no fishing in the lagoons,” which is both new and seen by many as banning a long-standing local use and group of users. We have now been told by Park District official Julia Bachrach that this is not intended as a new rule and that in any event it is only temporary. We have argued that it would be in the interests of everyone concerned – including the Park District – to amend the signs to make that clear. To date the Park District has not responded, but we will continue to push for a clarification.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch
Like us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

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JPW Special Golf Course Update – December 17, 2016

Greetings all,

Surprise! You no doubt know by now that our Mayor and his hand-picked Park District CEO Mike Kelly have announced a surprise holiday gift to us all – the pending establishment of a public/private partnership to raise $30 million to convert the existing Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses into a single 18-hole professional championship-caliber golf course by 2020.  (see http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/golf/ct-tiger-woods-south-side-golf-project-spt-1218-20161216-story.html; see also http://hpherald.co/2016/12/16/tiger-woods-will-lead-design-for-golf-complex-in-jackson-park/ )

Questions abound:   

  • Transparency? Although rumors about this have been floating, where was the transparent public process?
  • Community input? If this were to happen, it would have a massive impact on the park and surrounding community, especially in South Shore.  What does the community want?
  • Process? While the announcement has the air of a “done deal,” can the Mayor and his appointed Park District CEO really do anything they want in Jackson Park, as appears to have been the case with the Yoko Ono Sky Landing sculpture?  Wouldn’t this need, at the minimum, approval by the Park District Board, albeit also hand-picked by the Mayor?
  • Priorities? Mike Kelly says that the goal is to use $6m of taxpayer money.  Why should this take priority over other pressing Jackson Park needs?  A new or at least renovated field house?  Repair of broken paths?  Accessible bathrooms?  What about adverse impacts on the existing golfers, who could well be priced out, and on other uses and users in the rest of the park?
  • Environmental impact? And how about an environmental impact analysis?  Golf course construction typically means killing all existing plant material and taking the area down to bare soil.  A heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers is required to keep golf courses in championship shape.  All of these factors need to be explored, and publicly discussed.

To sum up: While not yet a certainty, this appears to be yet another step in a money-driven process of divvying up historical Jackson Park into segments without regard to the integrity of the Park, to the current, diverse local uses and users, or to the long-term impact on the community.  Instead of moving ahead, action on this project should be halted until there has been a unified, comprehensive planning process addressing the future of the entire Park, including the Obama Presidential Library – a planning process that is transparent and includes robust and substantive community engagement.

Suggestion for a good holiday gift:  Friends of the Parks has been a consistent help to JPW, giving advice, opening doors, making contacts, providing invaluable information.  FOTP Executive Director Juanita Irizarry’s comments about this golf course proposal are yet another indication of FOTP’s incisive, on-target approach to Chicago’s parks. (see http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/obama-library-in-Jackson-park-spurs-big-golf-course-redesign) To help FOTP help JPW’s work, consider making a donation to FOTP or becoming a member as you plan your holiday giving.  See https://fotp.org/.

And speaking of holidays, best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch
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Jackson Park Watch Special Update – November 29, 2016

Greetings all,

Just this morning the Tribune featured a major article about Jackson Park (see link below) and we want to be sure you all are aware of it.  As it happens, Tribune reporter Kathy Bergen had reached out to us as a source for information about Jackson Park and the Obama Library, and the idea of a broader article about possible changes to the park came up in that conversation.  We had several opportunities to talk with her as she developed the article, and think she did a great job of capturing the issues.


Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch
Like us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

Jackson Park Watch Update – November 28, 2016

Greetings all,

A lot has been happening since our last Update. Here are the highlights.

New restrictions on Wooded Island?

New signs went up on Wooded Island just as it was finally reopened to the public. (See photo at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch ) The signs list a host of new rules including:

* no fishing in the lagoons;
* no dogs on Wooded Island;
* stay on the pathways;
* no climbing on the rocks;
* don’t touch the sculpture.

We are asking JPAC to discuss these new rules at its December meeting: Who made these up, when and why? What about community input? What happened to the promise, repeatedly voiced by Louise McCurry and others, that the GLFER project would make fishing better than ever? (After all, GLFER stands for Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration.) And what!, no dogs on Wooded Island????  Interested community members might want to be there at 7 p.m., Monday, 12/12, at the Jackson Park Field House, 64th and Stony Island. There is ample street parking close by.

In addition to asking JPAC to protest these restrictions to the Park District, JPW coordinators Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid will take the issue to the Park District Commissioners at their monthly board meeting on December 14.

Sky Landing installation prompts more FOIAs

Some people love Yoko Ono’s Sky Landing, some not so much. Regardless, the unanswered questions surrounding how a celebrity and a private entity could get permission to install a permanent sculpture in a public park without any public involvement – not even a vote by the Park District Board! – continue to raise a host of red flags. Will we wake up one day to find bulldozers at work on the pavilion that Project 120 so desperately wants?

In a continued drive to forestall such a terrible transformation of Jackson Park, JPW has submitted a new and expanded round of Freedom of Information Act requests with assistance from attorneys at a top firm specializing in public interest law. The new FOIA requests focus on three areas: (1) terms for the installation of Sky Landing; (2) development of Project 120’s plans for the Phoenix Pavilion and of a Revised Framework Plan for Jackson Park; (3) circumstances surrounding the Memorandum of Understanding of July 2014. We will keep everyone posted.

Not-for-profit organization?

As JPW work becomes more intense and we begin to incur some significant costs, JPW coordinators Brenda and Margaret have considered forming a not-for-profit organization and soliciting contributions to allow JPW work to continue. Here, too, we will keep you posted. At this point we cannot accept any contributions due to the absence of an appropriate organizational structure.

Comprehensive planning for Jackson Park – a new initiative

JPW coordinators Brenda and Margaret have been invited to participate in an initiative led by Dr. Byron Brazier of the Apostolic Church of God to develop a single, comprehensive new plan for Jackson Park, encompassing the Obama Library and addressing its impact across the entire park.  At the first meeting, Dr. Brazier outlined a complex multi-step process to promote small group discussion and then engagement with the park’s full community. We are intrigued and hope the initiative will prove productive. At a minimum, it is another forum to advance JPW interests in community input, transparency, and preservation of as much of the Park as possible for local uses and local users.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch
Like us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

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Jackson Park Watch Update – October 24, 2016

Greetings all,

Yoko Ono’s sculpture “unveiled”

As JPW Update readers most certainly know, the Project 120/Yoko Ono “Sky Landing” sculpture was officially dedicated at a lavish invitation-only event on Wooded Island Monday Oct. 17; interested community members were actually turned away at the check-in point. JPW had been invited and Margaret attended (Brenda was away).  She reports that about 300 other people were there, the vast majority not local.  There was a long list of speakers, including Alderman Leslie Hairston, and of course Park District CEO Mike Kelly, the Mayor, Project 120 Bob Karr, and Yoko Ono herself, who gave brief comments.  No one from either the University or the Obama Foundation spoke or was acknowledged.  The program included an elaborate modern dance performance, live original music, and song.  It was quite a show.  But it is quite remarkable that this has occurred:  a private entity has been able to have a major permanent piece of art installed in a prominent location in a major historical Chicago public park without any notice to the public, without any public participation, and without leaving a trace in the public record.  Stealth privatization?

Wooded Island reopened

Wooded Island was reopened to the public the following Saturday Oct. 22, and there were quite a number of visitors both Saturday and Sunday.  The fencing remains up around the lagoon and the planting are very clearly both immature and incomplete. Apparently the Island itself will remain open even as the rest of the US Army Corps “GLFER” environmental restoration project continues.  At the moment, the Island south of Osaka Garden has been weed-whacked and tidied up, perhaps for the Yoko Ono event and subsequent opening to the public, and has lots of open space. Brenda and Margaret encourage everyone to go and check it all out, and to share any comments with the Park District’s “contact us” mailbox http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/contact or by writing Park District Superintendent and CEO Mike Kelly at the Chicago Park District, 541 N. Fairbanks Ct., Chicago 60611.

Mike Kelly responds – at last, but only partially

For several months, JPW has spoken during the “People in the Parks” forum that is part of the monthly meetings of the Park District Board, raising questions about Sky Landing, focusing on the seemingly mysterious process by which the Sky Landing sculpture installation was authorized, who paid for it, who owned it, and the like.  JPW presentations (two minutes only, as per Park District protocol) have been greeted with total silence until this past Wednesday (10/18), not even a “thank you for your interest.” But this past Wednesday Mike Kelly actually responded, at least in part, saying that the Sky Landing sculpture was donated by Yoko Ono and Project 120 and that while the Park District owns it, it will not pay for maintenance.  So at last we have confirmation of the actual source of the sculpture, information that all of our prior questions and FOIA requests had not to date been able to uncover.

We continue to look for the secret “paper” (or now digital) trail of the decisions that documented the donation and authorized the installation of the statue. It is inconceivable that there were no agreements, no matter how shielded from public view, and we need to uncover them.  Most significantly, at this point the precedent that appears to have been established is that a private entity – Project 120 in this instance – with sufficient funds can be given control of a part of a Chicago park and can install a project of its choosing in its own private part of that park.  This smells much like a back door form of privatization, and we fear the consequences: will we wake up one day to find that construction of Project 120’s proposed pavilion has begun?

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Jackson Park Watch


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Jackson Park Watch Update – October 7, 2016

Greetings all,

Yoko Ono sculpture update

Unanswered questions remain concerning how a private entity (Project 120) could have erected a permanent sculpture on Wooded Island immediately adjacent to the Paul Douglas Nature Sanctuary. Nonetheless, the sculpture is there, and you can see a preview on www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch. The official “unveiling” is scheduled for Oct. 17, and will include an event on Wooded Island itself as well as an evening gathering at the Stony Island Arts Bank. We’ll share information as we know more.

Keeping in Touch

As previously noted, JPW coordinators are staying in touch with many individuals and groups that are focusing on planning for Jackson Park in the wake of the Obama Library siting.

Brenda and Margaret recently participated in several FOTP-convened discussions considering the increasingly frequent usage of Chicago’s public parks for private, for-profit activities. The many examples from parks across the city paint a distressing pattern of privatization and appropriation of public space to the exclusion of local residents and regular park users.

We also attended meetings organized by the coalition working to secure a Community Benefits Agreement with the Obama Presidential Foundation , the City and the University. The initiative has embraced as one of its Development Principles a commitment that directly aligns with JPW’s priorities:   to sustain, increase, upgrade and maximize green open space for local uses and local users.

Both the FOTP discussions and the CBA initiative highlight concerns that are central to JPW’s participants and indicate that these concerns are widely shared. The challenge is to move from discussion to actual solutions. In this effort, JPW will continue to push for Park District transparency and inclusive community engagement as essential elements in planning for Jackson Park.

Dog park comparison amazingly revealing

You may have noted the “Dogged determination” article on the front page of the 10/4/16 Tribune chronicling the major obstacles that the Park District has erected in the way of South Siders wanting to have dog parks south of 18th Street. (Here is the link to the article as it appeared online — http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-chicago-dog-parks-south-side-met-20161003-story.html). This is yet another example of disparities between park facilities on the north and south sides. It also offers a fascinating comparison between the obstacles facing regular Chicagoans wanting amenities in their parks and the special treatment afforded Project 120 as it installed the permanent Yoko Ono sculpture on Wooded Island in Jackson Park. Take a look below!

A comparison that speaks volumes:

CPD requirements for (regular) Chicagoans to establish a dog park in a Chicago park


CPD requirements for the private, not-for-profit Project 120 to erect a permanent sculpture by Yoko Ono on Wooded Island in historic Jackson Park adjacent to a nature sanctuary




Location Mandated by Park District Chosen by Project 120
Application process Residents committee must submit application Secret, if any
Site requirements Must be close to water and sewer, distant from neighbors, have open and shaded areas, not adjacent to nature areas Site chosen by Project 120 (adjacent to Douglas Nature Sanctuary) no known requirements
Mandated show of community support Petition from community; letters of support from alderman, others; three public meetings; other requirements None
Financing Funding plan as part of application. Residents committee must raise 100% of the funding to build and maintain the park (est. $150,000 ). Unknown who paid for the sculpture, the site preparation, and the installation or will pay for maintenance. Is some or all at taxpayer expense?
Building and maintenance Layout plan and maintenance plan as part of application; permanent residents committee to provide ongoing maintenance No record of any CPD review or action other than site survey and construction crew permits.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch
Like us on our Facebook page. www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch.


Jackson Park Watch Update – September 5, 2016

Greetings all,

Change of date for FOTP presentation on the Obama Libraryzz

Friends of the Parks’ Fall Netsch Lecture, to focus on the Obama Presidential Library, has been rescheduled to Thursday, September 29, at 12 noon at the Chicago Cultural Center.   This is a free event, and we encourage you to attend if possible. Pre-registration is encouraged and will be available soon on the FOTP website ( https://fotp.org/ ), but is not required.

Yoko Ono sculpture going up soon; the outside fence may soon come down

We know that not everyone is a Facebook fan, but nonetheless we encourage you to take a look at our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch, where you will find a picture of preparations for installation of the Yoko Ono Sky Landing sculpture. The old asphalt path along the west edge of the Osaka Japanese Garden has been taken out and will be replaced with sod. As the picture on Facebook shows, the area between the earthen mounds has been dug up and twelve concrete bases have been put in, one for each of the twelve tall, polished-metal “petals” that will be erected starting September 12.

In related news, we understand that the cyclone fence enclosing not only the Wooded Island but the entire lagoon will be taken down in the next weeks, but that a temporary fence will be erected around the Yoko Ono sculpture to protect it, presumably from visitors. We have also been told by Park District personnel with responsibilities for the project that in the foreseeable future the current fence around the Osaka Japanese Garden will come down and a new fence enclosing the Garden and sculpture will be built “to integrate the sculpture into the Garden.” We also understand that in the future there will be only one entrance into the new “modern” Garden. Based on past announcements by Project 120’s Bob Karr, we assume there will be a ceremony to officially unveil the Yoko Ono sculpture and hope that it will be open to the public.

As more information becomes available, we will let everyone know.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch
Like us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

Jackson Park Watch Update August 12, 2016

Greetings all,

It has been a busy two weeks since the announcement that the Obama Presidential Center would be sited in Jackson Park. That busy-ness is reflected in the length of this Update. Bear with us.

Now what?

It’s a new ball game, as folks like to say. Project 120 is no longer the biggest elephant in the room. Now we have OPC.

To adapt to this new reality, Brenda and Margaret propose expanding JPW’s guiding principles and goals building on what JPW has represented and accomplished to date. We present a first draft below. BUT – we need feedback, critical comments and alternative suggestions, so that we can be sure that as JPW goes forward it is indeed reflecting community concerns.

  1. Continue to insist that a transparent process with inclusive community engagement is essential as plans for the OPC and its impact on Jackson Park are develope
  1. Maximize preservation of existing green space and trees for play, picnics, sports, and other local uses by local park users
  1. Ensure replacement of the track/athletic field within easy walking distance of the Hyde Park Academy High School with an equally high quality (or better) facility without using any additional park acreage and without any disruption in access by students or other community use
  1. Continue to oppose Project 120’s pavilion/music venue proposal; support new buildings in the park only if part of the OPC; otherwise, work to renew and then maintain existing buildings

Please give us feedback at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com. JPW can only be effective if we represent significant community voices!

Talking anew to the Park District’s Board of Commissioners about OPC and Yoko Ono

Margaret and Brenda presented an early statement of JPW’s expanded position to the CPD Commissioners during the “People in the Parks” segment of the August 10 monthly meeting. Noting that a new era had begun for Jackson Park with the announcement of the Obama Presidential Center location, we asked that Project 120’s proposals be set aside and the conversation about planning begin anew with a holistic view of Jackson Park with a particular attention to the needs and wishes of regular users:

Much of the public discussion to date has focused on the role of the Obama Center as a tourist destination, an anchor for a south museum campus that will spur economic development. Amid the hope and frenzy generated by that vision, Jackson Park Watch asks that the Park District, the Obama Foundation, and other responsible parties not lose sight of the importance of Jackson Park as a park — a place to enjoy nature, to play, to gather with family and friends; a place with a community of users who live in the surrounding neighborhoods and whose voices should be heard as the future of Jackson Park is discussed. We urge you, Mr. Kelly and Commissioners, to remember that your primary commitment is not to tourists nor to developers nor to politicians, but to the children and families who use the park on a regular basis and depend on it for recreation and renewal.

We also revisited a topic presented at the June and July meetings – the terms of the Yoko Ono installation on the Wooded Island. As with the Obama Center, “Sky Landing” is no longer a possibility but an emerging reality – construction for the installation began this week and we have just been told that the fence may come down next month to allow for the Sky Landing unveiling– but many questions are still unanswered:

We know that this past Monday work on the concrete base for the Yoko Ono sculpture began on Wooded Island. We know that that base will be clad in marble. We know that the sculpture itself will be installed in about three weeks. We know that plans to remove the existing walkway along the west side of the Osaka Japanese Garden and to reconfigure the fence around the Garden to include the Yoko Ono piece are now being made. These developments add to the questions we have raised in the past and make them more urgent. Who will own the sculpture? Who is paying for it and for its installation? Who will maintain it? At whose expense? What are the plans for the new space that will be created? How will they impact the adjacent nature sanctuary? And how do you intend to manage access to the celebrity art work given that the area remains surrounded by fencing and that, even if that fencing were to be removed, neither parking nor restrooms are readily available? This is a public park. This is public space. The public deserves to know.

 You can find the complete statements at http://jacksonparkwatch.org under ‘key documents.”

A good letter to the Editor

JPW participant Eric Ginsburg wrote a terrific letter “Less is more for Jackson Park” to the Hyde Park Herald, published August 10. You can find it at: http://hpherald.com/letters-to-the-editor/

Community benefits?

Much has been said and written about community benefits since the announcement that the OPC will be located in Jackson Park. Obama Foundation president Martin Nesbitt raised at least a few eyebrows with his claim that there is no need for any community benefits agreements since the Obama Library is in itself a benefit to the community.

That aside, believing as JPW does that the Park is itself a massive benefit to the community and that maintaining as much open parkland as possible for community users is essential, JPW coordinators Brenda and Margaret participated in a community benefit coalition meeting on Wednesday, August 10. We proposed that preserving open space in Jackson Park for local uses by local users should be among the community benefits that the coalition puts forward. While there were many priority items under consideration, the idea of preserving park space for local users was sympathetically received. JPW coordinators will continue to participate in such meetings and will report back.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch