News & Info

Jackson Park: Sacred Cows and Holy Beavers

JUNE 15, 2016 | HYDE PARK HERALD
JACKSON PARK: SACRED COWS AND HOLY BEAVERS
Opinion by Fraces Vendervoort
Jackson Park Advisory Council and Washington Park Conservancy
Read full Opinion in the Hyde Park Herald

Last week I learned of local concern that the Jackson Park Golf Driving Range, constructed in 1978 near the site of the Nike Missile Base, was soon to be sacrificed to Project 120’s plan to convert the space into a spacious lawn. I also learned that beavers would soon be unwelcome facets of Jackson Park ecology. Never mind that, in 1978, when the golf driving range was about to become reality, concerned citizens sought the help of former alderman Leon Despres to prevent the Chicago Park District (CPD) from destroying much of the existing Bobolink Meadow. Documents, signed by Mr. Despres, were presented by a local resident to the chief lawyer of the CPD, temporarily halting bulldozers poised to tear up the precious land. Hyde Parkers, who chained themselves to driving range posts, were cut free by CPD employees, carted off to district police headquarters, and released at the request of Mr. Despres. Now, it seems, the driving range is a sacred cow – to be saved at all cost!

The Role of Project 120 in Jackson Park Planning.

Many folks are unaware that Project 120 is part of a collaborative effort involving the Chicago Park District and U. S. Army Corps of Engineers known as GLFER, Great Lakes Fisheries and Ecosystem Restoration. GLFER uses CPD and U.S. Government funds supplemented by private funds raised by Project 120.  GLFER is committed to addressing park management issues in view of evolving urban needs and the inevitable climate changes foreseen for the 21st Century. Also, part of its duty is to inform and involve the public in all actions proposed or taken.  Numerous meetings have been held to discuss all issues related to the project. Questions (that appeared on a Jackson Park Watch handout on May 29) about “how the Park District feels about…, “ or “what the Park District thinks about …” are specious and misleading.  The three units making up GLFER are in total agreement.  Project 120 is easier to say than GLFER, but it is NOT a defining term.

Project 120 has engaged the nation’s foremost expert on Frederick Law Olmsted, Patricia O’Donnell of Heritage Landscapes, LLC, for advice about park design. Working for GLFER is the outstanding young CPD ecologist, Lauren Umek, who analyzes and suggests the very best ecological practices for management of the special treasure that is Jackson Park.

We are so lucky.

Frances Vandervoort
Jackson Park Advisory Council
Washington Park Conservancy