Sun Times: S. Side resident left out of park decisions

Your Oct. 17 piece on Yoko Ono’s sculpture in Jackson Park mentioned a $29 million investment in the park, including a new music pavilion. This pavilion is the subject of hot debate in the community.

At a May 31 meeting convened by Ald. Leslie Hairston, with Chicago Parks Supt. Mike Kelly and Wilmette resident Bob Karr, who heads Project 120, in attendance, four people spoke in favor of the pavilion while 38 spoke against it….

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Hyde Park Herald – Are we really improving Jackson Park?

To the Editor:

At a Museum of Contemporary Art concert a month ago, Tatsu Aoki advised attendees that he and his ensemble would be playing at the opening of Yoko Ono’s art installation in Jackson Park. He said it would be a gala affair, and advised potential attendees to arrive early because “thousands might be there.”

As a Hyde Park resident and neighbor of Jackson Park, I was anticipating this event. It was held on Oct. 17…”thousands” were not there. In fact, the community, as far as I know, was not alerted nor invited to the event…..

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Hyde Park Herald – Less is more for Jackson Park

To the Editor:

With the siting of the Obama Library in Jackson Park, and expansive talk of a “Museum Campus South”, it is even more important that plans for the rest of Jackson Park get more scrutiny.  As the surrounding neighborhood develops and land is sought to relocate the displaced track and athletic fields, there will be increasing pressure to build inside the rest of the park.  Some may see the music pavilion on Northerly Island as a model for the development of other parts of Jackson Park.

But the use of one corner of the park for an important new library and museum does not justify sacrificing the remainder of the park. Any additional development in Jackson Park should not be judged simply by how many tourists can be drawn to the South Side. If that were the measure of success, why not also build a casino and a roller coaster?

In addition to the upcoming Obama Library construction, Jackson Park has recently had the Army spend millions to restore its fish and wildlife habitat, Yoko Ono is supposed to install a sculpture next to the Japanese Garden, the Darrow Bridge will remain closed for several years, and Project 120 is proposing a music pavilion to the east of the bridge that would require removing at least a football field’s worth of trees.

Wooded Island and its surroundings are a rare piece of urban wilderness. The Army’s project was undertaken recognizing the “important migratory bird, fish and wildlife habitat within the natural portions of Jackson Park” with “the potential to provide pond, fringe marsh, sedge meadow, savanna and woodland habitat.” Residents from the surrounding neighborhoods treasure the park as a nearby, quiet place to walk, fish, bird watch and picnic.  Plans for any additional structures in the park should be vetted through extensive community engagement. Common sense would suggest that such plans take into account the Obama Library design, and that reopening the Darrow Bridge should be a high priority.

Jackson Park is not a blank slate in need of new development. It is hard to imagine there is another natural area in Chicago facing so much change in such a short amount of time. In this case, less is more.

Eric Ginsburg

Chicago’s parks are for nature – not noise

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the recent editorial “Parks and sweet sound of silence.” Finally, a voice of reason for these places that are set aside for people to enjoy as green spaces away from the noise and chaos of the city, many of which have naturalized areas that enhance our opportunities to engage our curiosity and love of the natural world beyond the rats in the concrete village. Montrose Beach, Douglas Park, Jackson Park and Douglas Nature Sanctuary are precious respites from the city noise. Bravo for the idea that other open spaces (maybe even the brownfields?) are available for these concert venues in the outer reaches of the city that aren’t the city parks.

— Nancy J. Tikalsky, Zion
Copyright © 2016, Chicago Tribune

There is no need to mar the middle of Jackson Park…. June 29, 2016

To the Editor:

I submit that Project 120’s plan to put a music pavilion east of the Darrow Bridge in Jackson Park might not have been appreciated by the park’s designer, the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. In 1891, he wrote a letter protesting the placement of a music hall on Wooded Island, saying that people should consider it “a place of relief from all the splendor and glory and noise and human multitudinousness of the great surrounding Babylon.”  In his public advocacy, Olmsted repeatedly showed that he understood the value in unbuilt spaces, saying for example that Presque Isle in Michigan, “should not be marred by the intrusion of artificial objects.”

Jackson Park is one of our city’s few remaining spots of urban wilderness. Birdwatchers come from far away to see the animals it draws, families come to picnic, many come to fish. As our population grows, such places become fewer and fewer, and as habitat decreases across the hemisphere, the number and variety of birds decreases as well.

The proposed pavilion will displace trees and green space, impair views, and bring extra noise, all unnecessarily. We already have many permanent music venues on the South Side of Chicago. Jackson Park itself already hosts the Chosen Few festival every year without the need for permanent structures. If the communities surrounding Jackson Park collectively decide, through a local, open process, that public land is needed for a new music venue, we can find a more appropriate location for it than in the center of a natural area.

Olmsted’s attitude was prescient. He was writing in an era before amplified music, before the Park was surrounded by road noise from traffic moving at highway speeds, before several bird species once found in Chicago went extinct.  Olmsted knew from experience what neuroscientists have since quantified, that a walk in nature has beneficial effects on the brain.  He would have understood that that there is no need to mar the middle of his park with another intrusive “artificial object.”

Eric Ginsburg

Thanks, Alderman Hairston!

An open letter to Alderman Leslie Hairston from Jackson Park Watch, June 9, 2016

Dear Alderman Hairston,

Jackson Park Watch wants to thank you for convening and leading the May 31 community meeting on the future of Jackson Park. The fact that over 170 residents from communities surrounding the park came out on a very wet and stormy night to listen to and question Park District CEO Michael Kelly and others indicates the depth and breadth of interest in and concern about the proposals for the future of our park that have been promoted by Project 120.

We congratulate you especially on a well-run meeting that, in spite of the overflow crowd, allowed participants to give voice to questions on a variety of issues representing many points of view — the history of Project 120, the role of the Park District, the scale and location of the proposed Phoenix Pavilion (including whether any new structure is needed at all), concern about loss of trees, green space and parking, as well as about the fates of the golf course and driving range, basketball court, and tennis courts, among them.

We are particularly pleased that the meeting provided the community with clarifications on some key concerns:

•Contrary to Project 120’s recent presentations, traffic over the restored Darrow Bridge will be limited to pedestrians, bicycles, and emergency vehicles only. There will not be a road for regular automobile traffic leading over the Bridge with parking along both sides.

•The pavilion proposal is a concept, not a done deal. Because the idea of a road across the Bridge is off the table, there is a great opportunity to revisit not only the proposed location of this pavilion (on the current parking lot), but also its size and scope. A relocated, down-sized, simplified pavilion could far better align with community views.

We are grateful that you are committed to working with Mr. Kelly to develop a procedure and process for community input that will fully represent the Jackson Park community in all its diversity. The May 31 meeting was a great step toward that goal, and, once again we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch

(published in the Hyde Park Herald 6/15/2016)

Jackson Park Watch applauds Alderman Hairston’s push for more community involvement in Project 120 (Hyde Park Herald) May 4, 2016

To the Editor:

Jackson Park Watch (JPW) is a community initiative dedicated to ensuring that community members have a decisive voice in any major changes made to Jackson Park.  In particular, JPW has focused on the varied and changing proposals for the north end of the Park that have been advanced by Project 120 over the past few years. The most significant of these concern a large multi-purpose visitors center/pavilion that would be located east of the Darrow Bridge and the very major changes in traffic patterns and parking options that would result.

For that reason, JPW applauds Alderman Leslie Hairston’s April 26 announcement that she has asked the Chicago Park District to convene a community process to consider those proposals, to sort out fact from fiction, and to identify a possible timeline for any work that might eventually occur.  We know that many JPW participants have communicated their concerns about Project 120’s proposals to the alderman, and we offer a collective JPW THANK YOU! to Alderman Hairston for her leadership on this issue.

For those readers who have not yet learned about JPW’s work to ensure that Jackson Park neighbors and users have a priority voice in future plans for our Park, we invite you to learn more by visiting our website ( and to sign up to receive periodic email Updates by contacting us at the address below.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid,
coordinators, Jackson Park Watch