Jackson Park and JPAC

(Below: Essay from the HPKCC Conference Reporter, Summer, 2004:
Jackson Park Advisory Council, Guarding the Park). Return to JPAC/Jackson Park home.

An Historic Treasure

Designed twice by Frederick Law Olmsted (the second time for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition) and again by his sons, today’s park follows his vision and invites us to contemplate and enjoy:

·        Lake Michigan’s majesty, views, beaches and harbors.

·        Inland lagoon waterway of wetlands, woods and meadows.

·        Rolling parkland and tree stands, sports and picnic fields, spaces to stroll, hike, or sit in or listen to music.

·        Historic vistas and structures.

A Prime Wildlife Habitat

On the migratory bird flyway, Wooded Island (Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary), lagoons and Bobolink Meadow are a key regional habitat and a worldwide draw to birders.

A Recreational Beehive

A class A Field and Track, soccer and ball fields, tennis and basketball courts and a busy Field House await.

These Unique Features add to our exceptional park:

Jackson Park Advisory Council

JPAC is the body that monitors the Park, represents the community and advises the Park District.

We will hold the district to account for stewardship, preserve and protect the park’s historic character and special natural areas, provide an open forum and seek a fair share for all park users and communities, the park’s common good and highest potential.

Lively Monthly Meetings…

hear from and challenge park officials, share ideas and breaking news, take stands.

Committees troubleshoot in the Park, work to improve conditions, standards and plans or to conduct park projects.

Our Goal is a Park:

Action and Achievement

JPAC’s Pioneers led the way on key JPAC concerns before there was a JPAC:

1965—Park land and trees were sacrificed to roads.  The public resisted with civil disobedience.  Today, JPAC and the public review and even kill plans.  A Forest Management Plan is mandated and being prepared.

1970s/80s—In the Natural Area, funding was found by future JPAC leaders from the city and abroad for Osaka Garden Wooded Island (designated the Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary in 1978), Bob-o-link Meadow, and the Lagoons.  These remain a primary focus of JPAC activity.

From its 1983 founding, pursuant to a consent decree to achieve equity in the parks, JPAC worked on improvement and maintenance issues and on halting both encroachments on the park and harassment of user groups, first instance being that against the Lawn Bowlers.

Some Issues and achievements

Some of JPAC's long-range commitments, collaborations

JPAC works collaboratively with the Chicago Park District and other public and private groups to further goals that will enhance Jackson Park and grow the Council. Jackson Park is large, complex, and meets the needs of a wide range of people and wildlife. So, our work and commitment must be for the long haul.

The Natural Areas-Wooded Island, the Lagoons, Bob-o-link Meadow

The multi-year, multi million dollar Natural Area projects started in 2000are needed and welcome. But not only must the projects be planned and carried out collaboratively, but we must complete and implement comprehensive plans for ongoing reevaluation, management, and maintenance of these precious sanctuaries. Also needing careful thought is the role of human visitors and activities in the natural areas.

Water Quality

Both public health and ecological health require that we continue to see progress on water quality and reduction of pollution in both the lagoons and the 63rd Street Beach. JPAC is calling agencies' attention to problem sources, such as drains from parking lots and asking for a plan or blueprint.

Osaka Garden

This special place is distinct from the natural areas and has the kinds of needs that could be addressed by a special support group with vision and commitment. The group and the moment appear to have arrived; JPAC is ready to help.

Engaging Users, Communities

A Park that meets the needs of and invites collaboration among its visitors, user and interest groups, and community stakeholders A Park that both receives the care and stewardship it needs from both the Park District and from its users and neighbors and in turn is a focus to bring people and communities together.

This is the tallest order of all. JPAC itself may have to change if it's serious about achieving this goal. JPAC and the Park District will launch a new initiative this fall to identify and energize the many latent supporters and assets the park may have in its near and far-flung communities. We hope to see you at our assembly in October.

Gary Ossewaarde, JPAC Secretary


In the Parks:
Jackson Park Advisory Council,
Guarding the Park

by Gary Ossewaarde. From The Conference Reporter, summer, 2004

Jackson Park is a 570-acre historic-design and multi-use lakefront park on the southeast edge of Hyde Park. One can swim at the beach, join throngs playing soccer or picnicking, lose oneself in lawns, island woods, or savannas, run on a state-of the-art track, or catch a game of lawn bowling, croquet, golf, tennis, or pickup basketball. An important activity is bird watching in this prime bird area: HPKCC and JPAC member Doug Anderson has led twice-weekly walks in the natural areas for thirty years.

It is important that the park’s organized and casual users accommodate each other and serve as eyes and ears for the well being of the park. Many of these needs are most sorely felt in the sports and parking areas at and stretching north from Hayes (63rd) Drive and the oft-crowded 63rd beach vicinity—ensuring space for soccer and golf, basketball, and a drummers’ circle.

The park users and neighbors all come together at the meetings of the Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC), second Mondays of the month (2nd Tuesday in October), 7:30 pm at the fieldhouse, 6401 S. Stony Island Avenue.

There we discuss progress, problems, and new projects and opportunities with each other and with guests from the Chicago Park District, Department of Transportation—sometimes the police—and many small and large park user groups. We pass along our resolved positions and expressed concerns, as well as our officers’ various investigation results, to officials and responsible parties in a constant give-and-take of e-mails, letters and phone calls. The Council is highly respected and enjoys excellent rapport and cooperation with officials and agencies. This has not been an easy accomplishment for an organization mandated in 1983 as part of a settlement for neglect of South Side parks.

At times our meetings host major presentations, followed by advice and policy discussions with the presenters. Recently, an organization of Korean-Americans reported on their research on Korea’s exhibit at the 1893 Columbian Exposition—Korea’s first participation in an international event and occasion for founding of the first Korean-American community, here in Chicago—and their ideas for commemorating the exhibit in the park. This has been much in the news in Korea.

The advisory council has a growing number of projects, including a community vegetable garden near the golf course and natural areas volunteer workdays. (For information call Ross Petersen at 773 975-1101 or visit the website, www.hydepark.org/parks/jpac.) The Council provides youth scholarships to the programs run by Jackson Park fieldhouse—and in turn receives help from the park’s teen clubs including the JETS (Junior Earth Team). The Council is grateful for volunteer help from residents and citywide organizations, such as Chicago Cares, U of C Environmental Club, and many others.

JPAC publishes a monthly newsletter and maintains a large website within hydepark.org. In fact, the much of JPAC’s work is possible because of much-appreciated purchased back-office services from the Hyde Park-Kenwood Conference and help from the Museum of Science and Industry.

Over the past few years, millions of dollars have been invested in Jackson Park. Hyde Park residents should know that South Lake Shore Drive rehabilitation became much more than a road project largely at behest of a citizens’ Study Group (with many participants being members of the Conference and JPAC), JPAC, and Aldermen Hairston and Preckwinkle, with support from Mayor Daley and our state representatives.

As part of the expanded project, hundreds of trees and thousands of plants and shrubs--a high proportion native or environmentally- and wildlife-friendly, are being planted all over the park. (Of course, many mature trees were lost to the project, as well as to a terrible storm last summer.)

Subsidiary roads, bridges and the Lakefront Trail have been rebuilt and signals coordinated. New storm sewers were installed to divert dirty road-flushings away from Lake Michigan. And five wide, attractive underpasses provide new access in the park. Even a stretch of original granite-paver beach and the granite curbs around the Statue of the Republic were or are being restored. A new parking lot across from the restored 63rd Bathing Pavilion doubles as a state-of-the-art basketball court. The beach house will soon join the recently-landmarked Republic (Daniel Chester French, 1918) and the Museum of Science and Industry as designated landmarks in Jackson Park.

Much of JPAC’s time in recent years was taken up monitoring and refining these projects, along with the simultaneous major rehabilitation/replanting in the lagoons, Wooded Island and Osaka Japanese Garden, and Bob-o-link Meadow east of the lagoons, not to mention projects at and around the Museum of Science and Industry and LaRabida Hospital.

JPAC must both represent (and sometimes referee) the neighbors and users of the park—those who have to live with the park and its changes year in, year out—and must also guard this park’s historic character and layout “template.” This frequently entails deciding upon new structures, etc. that someone thinks is a “good idea” and other changes that may or may not be encroachments on historic, established user, or general free space.

Sadly, much time is also taken up with “bad neighbor” issues, such as dog walkers who turn dogs off leash in sensitive parts of the natural areas, vandals and other practitioners of illegal activities, and those who park on or chew up the lawns. Other time is taken up with environmental remediation ranging from beach pollution and swimming bans to park runoff into the lagoons or remains* from the Nike missile bases (*not radiation).

JPAC, with the park district and others, is turning its attention to ways to maintain, restore or upgrade the historic and other components of the park. Some are:

· Iowa Pavilion replacement structure at 56th and the Drive—maybe with concessions and a small exhibit,
· Area from the 59th Marina and tennis courts to the Music Court,
· Forestry [including tree replacement] and lagoon-shore plantings,
· Old Coast Guard Station (formerly Jackson Park Grill) with quality concession,
· Bowling green and its clubhouse,
· Aging fieldhouse,
· Badly deteriorated paths.

See our website or contact Gary Ossewaarde at (773) 773 947-9541 or at hpkcc@aol.com. Come visit us our monthly meeting.


Be involved—help JPAC strengthen your park!  Join the recognized Jackson Park neighbors’ voiced and watchdog, attend lively public meetings, volunteer for park advocate and work teams.

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