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Kenwood Community Park Advisory Council and Park and Playground
page is presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its parks
committee, and its website www.hydepark.org, as reportage and commentary,
not by Kenwood Park Advisory Council or the
Chicago Park District. HPKCC Parks Chair attn. Gary
Kenwood Community Park, in the Central Region, has an advisory council, which meets as needed in the fieldhouse, 1330 E. 50th St. see below-next special meeting reports, recently held. Any interested in joining may call Supervisor Tony McCoy, 312 747-6285. Area Manager Harold Bailey at 312 746-5962, Region office 312 747-7661. Alderman Burns's Office a 773 536-8301, or email council leader Sophia King, contact is email@example.com. or firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous accomplishments: planning for a replacement for the defunct spray fountain/pool and receipt of Shoesmith School-made baked tiles, fitting additions to the new playgrounds half funded by the council and community, on the opposite side of the park from southeast entry (shown here), also largely funded by the council and by a nearby resident group in honor of community activist Lester Dugas. Park photo tour. added since this photo: a fine carved boulder commemorating the work and accomplishments of Lester Dugas.
For permits etc.
call the park supervisor and check Chicago Park District website, section
on special events and permits.
OFFICIAL PARK AND COUNCIL WEBSITE: http://web.me.com/kenwoodpark/Site/About_KPAC.html, email@example.com
Playground Park, known forever to many as "Farmer's Field,"
Kenwood-Dorchester-49th-50th- is a "community" park with some regional
characteristics or draw such as heavily used ball fields. ) Its new
playground and southeast corner entry Lester Dugas Garden are
an outstanding example of what partnerships between residents, local institutions
and organizations (including the University of Chicago/SECC), the state, and
the Park District can accomplish.
Next council meeting possibly March 24.
This website has reported on and maintained an informal webpage on Kenwood Park and council since the 1990s.
Park Supervisor Tony McCoy 312 747-6285, Area Manager Harold Bailey, 312 746-5962. More info on special events, permits: Park Services at 312 742-5369.
Signup for spring programs and view online starting at www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/content.home.cfm. Also http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/programs.home.cfm and http://programs.chicagoparkdistrict.com/programBrowser/
Sophia King remains President
Kim DuBuclet, Vice President
Roxanne Friedman, Secretary
Leslie Gatton, Treasurer
Next meeting June 26, Wednesday, 7 pm, St. Paul and the Redeemer east side Bylesby room. http://firstname.lastname@example.org . ChicagoKPAC@gmail.com.
View park programs on line. Signup on line at www.chicagoparkdistrict.com and in person in second month of preceding quarter
Work in the last
year included per community agreement re-sodding the fields, including the two
west ballfields near Shoesmith School- the northwest will be reduced to previous
dimensions. The northeast and southeast lots have to stay bare for regulation
play, but the northeast field has a barrier wall to stop clay running off to
the streets, and sprinklers were installed. To be addressed as 2011 summer comes
is middle field condition due to extreme weather and possible overuse by soccer
teams. Resurfacing and other work on the tennis courts is done.
Priorities in summer 2011 include field management and scheduling, street safety remaining issues, and entryway enhancement near 49th and Kenwood. New officers are needed in October although Ms. King has agreed to stay on.
Kenwood Park Advisory Council meets on months as announced, 7 pm, St. Paul and the Redeemer, Byllesby Room or Chapel (east side entry)
The following is based mostly on article by Charlotte and John Schuerman in Hyde Park History, Summer 2008, Vol. 30, No. 3.
This write [Gary Ossewaarde] does not know the immediate post-Indian Boundary history of the area. What would become the park appears not have been part of the purchases of either Stephen Douglas, Paul Cornell (starting 1853), or Dr. Egan. Some time after John H. Dunham, the founder of Madison Park, bought the 20 acres between 50th and 51st, Woodlawn and Blackstone (then Washington) for $4,500 from the receiver of Marine Bank in 1868, Dunham added 20 acres from 49th to 50th, Woodlawn to Blackstone. In the southern purchase he developed the exclusive Madison Park with lots of height and structure limits, including that houses on 51st had to face his internal park. Lots of suits, fights and spites developed with neighbors, including over his construction of shanties for workers---including some planned but not built for what later became the park. Wealthy near neighbors in the burgeoning upper/upper middle class Kenwood (founded by the Kennicott's to have large lots) who were irked were baseball power A. G. Spaulding and Judge Van H. Higgins.
When Dunham died in 1893 (property valued at $1.5 million), he specified that his property could not be sold until his heirs died. One daughter, Helen (Lizzie) married Judge Kirk Hawes and died before her unmarried sister Mary Virginia, who died in 1928, the key year. Ten acres of the property was known as Dunham's cow pasture. Dunham planned to build cheap cottages, but the neighbors rose in arms-- so Dunham vowed to keep the property "a farm and cow pasture to the discomfiture of the neighbors" according to a September 2, 1951 Tribune article.
When Mary Virginia Dunham died in 1928, developers swooped in, one plan including a $10 million luxury apartment building, but the building boom died even before the Depression really got going. The only bidder was Albert W. Harris (Harris Bank), a next door neighbor. Harris turned at least 3 acres over to the Chicago school board-- so by a strict definition Harris was the owner and his was the very restrictive deed --and his white trim house across the street from the park on 50th is the "farmer's house" (Dunham never lived in the area, but on Michigan Avenue downtown) even though Dunham has to be considered the "Farmer" in light of area history, pedigree, and folklore.
Schools did not abide by the deed, an the land was given to the by-then Chicago Park District some time before September 1951, starting a sometimes uneasy co relationship between Schools and Parks. Restrictive terms of the deed include that it had to stay a playground, has to be titled Kenwood Community Playground and that only one structure is allowed, limited to the size of the current fieldhouse. Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School was built in 1955 or '56 using a large gift from schoolteacher Shoesmith.
Key later features were
the fieldhouse, several large trees including a graceful cottonwood in the southeast,
which trees were often threatened by expansion of ball fields and other features.
Neighbors such as Nancy Hays went to bat for features of the park they thought
threatened or at neglect, leading by the 1990s to formation of park councils,
which ebbed and flowed according to issues. Controversies appeared, such as
changes to ball fields, mysterious chopping down of basketball posts apparently
by neighbors irked at noise and congregation, gang and drug activity, gatherings
and "picnics" in the park etc. The deed has both saved and hindered
August 11, Saturday, 2006 2 pm Chicago Park District, Kenwood Park Council, and the Lester J. Dugas Park Memorial Committee dedicated, at a well attended ceremony, the garden at the southeast entry to Kenwood Park, 1330 E. 50th, and a large carved limestone monument by Walter Arnold, carved with flowers. Lester Dugas was a leader with Hyde Park Bank, SECC, HPKCC, Kenwood Open House Committee, Children's Memorial, Provident Hospital (Chairman), St.Paul Church, and was the first African American senior manager at Commonwealth Edison.
The Garden Gateway and walk were installed in the middle 2000's in accord with much planning, including a framework plan, by the council and other residents, volunteer architects, and the Chicago Park District. It was part of a larger plan the obtained a new set of playgrounds. The Council raised significant funds to contribute to the reconstructions. Simultaneously, Common Threads in conjunction with Black Star Project and Church of St. Paul and the Redeemer created a community garden essentially between the fieldhouse and Shoesmith School and the school also installed a playground.
Here are issues as raised by members of the new council March 29, 2006: (You will find them little changed in a list in June 2008.)
The World Garden at Kenwood Community Park, started by Common Threads and St. Paul and the Redeemer, for a while experienced repeated vandalism and theft to the garden and to the minimal fence in 2006. (Common Threads was started by Al Smith, Oprah's chef, and includes a project to teach kids from across the South Side the whole process of healthy and sustainable food production and consumption. The Kenwood Improvement Association at its meeting heard from the project's director Linda Novick and asked action) Rudy Nimocks, director of The University of Chicago Police, made arrangements for nighttime UCP and 21st District patrols to make sure the garden stays. Despite this vandalism recurred. UC, council and Improv. Assn. also have been working with the park district to get a sturdy fence. They are likely to get chain-link for now and will seek a better fence later. Some consider the fence an eyesore.
Reports after the Park Usage Committee meeting reports and in the media reports in PUC section will unveil the controversy. Many are disturbed at the treatment of and off-and-on diminution or suspension of the advisory council and its seeming inability to serve as the leading consensus builder for the park. The alderman formed several committees to handle council reorganization, park usage determination and conflict solution, and a steering committee to oversee matters and the next election in fall 2008.
At the September 2009 meeting, it was announced that the fields closest to the school are the ones to have some grass.
From the March 2008 HPKCC Conference Reporter-
Kenwood Park and Kenwood Council Dispute Affects community (contains additional material about the Olympics, see in that page. Also, the guidelines question for parks overall is closer to resolution)
By Gary Ossewaarde
a dispute over expansion of one of the baseball diamonds in Kenwood Community Park (Farmers Field, at 50th and Dorchester) ended in challenges to the validity of the advisory council. The HPKC parks committee (chair, Gary Ossewaarde) was asked to look into the matter by council leaders, one of whom answered questions from the Conference board in February.
While the Conference has not taken a position on the expansion of this diamond for league play by [13-15]-year olds, we wrote Park District Superintendent Timothy Mitchell of our concern about status of the council, allegedly over lost registration paperwork, and the likely role of an absence of consistent, objective and transparent procedures and environment for establishment, accountability, listening to or dissolution of park advisory councils.
We in fact found differences even in Hyde Park that could not be accounted for by park sizes, needs, or offerings. And we found that when this particular dispute led to deadlock between two powerful sets of park neighbors and users that could not be resolve with satisfaction to both parties by the council with help from the local alderman, it was all too easy for some party to inquire into the council's standing via filed paperwork, which was then not found.
"As is often the case," we wrote the Superintendent, "the informal and inconsistent operating practices of the Park District were not a problem until a dispute erupted. This is exactly the time when a transparent and empowered Advisory Council should be available to help resolve the issue." We concluded that consistent, objective, and transparent policy "is necessary for us to be confident that the seven Park Advisory Councils currently operating in Hyde Park and Kenwood are properly and with confidence" able to do their jobs.
The Park District was indeed aware of such problems and preparing a new set of guidelines at the time, subsequently submitted to select councils for review. Widespread reaction was that the document needs revision lest it seriously damage local oversight and participation in our parks.
Meanwhile, the Kenwood Council has continued to consult with the District and local officials and groups and to plan for clean up days, fundraising for park programs, and new elections. The Conference believes park councils should be forums of conflict resolution, not bodies to be controlled.
Our Parks Committee notes these among issues and possible solutions highlighted by the Kenwood Park disputes:
1) Too often new, or changes to existing, facilities desired by user groups or park officials are executed with insufficient or no advanced vetting or negotiation with park councils, neighbors, and the wider community. Helpful is insistence by public officials that fait accompli and lack of public input will not stand.
2) Demands on park space are constantly growing throughout the city. First, parks should have framework plans tha are living, governing documents. Second, there should be careful broad-input review of proposed uses that sequester parks in whole or part. Planning needs to keep in mind that parks are first and foremost public, open, general use lands. Also, every effort should be made to accommodate, with safety, competing uses (and near neighbors) within parks and among parks of various sizes.
[Concluding section, on the Olympics, is in the Olympics page.]
Minutes, Kenwood Park Usage Committee
1st meeting, June 4, 2008
The meeting was convened by George W. Rumsey under commission of Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th) on June 4, 2008, c. 7:10 pm in the Hyde Park Bank 4th Floor Conference Center. Minutes were taken by Gary Ossewaarde. (*The park, 1330 E. 50th, runs 49th-50th, Dorchester to approx. Kenwood.)
Present: the following invited and assembled participants, in order of introductions or first speaking):
George Rumsey, Chairman. President, Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference
Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th)
Ben Jacobson, coach and officer of the HPK Chicago Fire Soccer
Jonathan Silverman, Ancona School and neighbor, parent of users
Gary Ossewaarde, HPKCC Vice President, and Parks Chairman
Crystal Fencke, Hyde Park Herald
Heinrich Jaeger, neighbor, longtime active in the park advisory council on many issues
Madelain Gerbaulet Vanasse, neighbor, user, Kenwood Open House Committee
Vicki Suchovsky, HPKCC board
Mary Margaret Bell, neighbor, advisory council
Steve Molasky, neighbor, advisory council
Jean Snyder, neighbor, heavy user, advisory council
Leslie Pilot-Gatton, life neighbor, Kenwood Improvement Association, St. Paul, Lester Dugas
Roxanne Friedman, neighbor, Legends Baseball
Lynn Small, neighbor, asks for Lester Dugas Memorial Assn.
Sophia Dorsey King, lives near, family uses, sports interest, Kenwood Improvement Assn.
Janet Geovanis, neighbor, Kenwood Improvement Association, Ancona School
Rumsey defined the purpose of the committee as seeking strategies for solution. This will require much feedback and research and will not be a quick process. This is the first of several meetings.
Alderman Preckwinkle expressed appreciation to the chairman and participants. She reiterated that there will be several meetings as there needs to be clarity about the park’s usage.
Rumsey said he does not have a history and sense of this park and its usage, although he has gathered a large folder of materials. What are the issues, he asked, and how do we achieve solutions and consensus? He wants consensus and noted that the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference seeks open, honest conversations.
Introductions were held around the table, in which participants were asked to state their associations, interests, and uses in the park, and their concerns, which often became discussions. It was noted that the schools (Ancona, Canter, and Kenwood) and their teams were underrepresented despite specific requests. This will be followed up.
Motion was made by Lynn Small that the Committee recommends a new fence to protect and discourage trash at the Lester J. Dugas Memorial Garden. Upon discussion, this was approved 7-5 in principle and with no prejudice to the role of the advisory council in considering the matter.
Rumsey raised sample queries that need answers on the road to solutions.
• Lack of reference to schools and their teams in discussion
• Will there be a league of even older boys at Kenwood Park? No
• Any progress on dust and mud impacts? The district and Legends are making some progress. Systemic problems and that most of the fields are idle of usage at one time were discussed.
• Need for protective netting and fencing per referenced safety study. There were sharp differences of opinion on this and safety. Ald. Preckwinkle asked Legends to supply current playing schedule.
• Impacts, overlap of play and cay camps. A partial overlap was observed.
• Adequacy of facilities. There was general agreement these are inadequate onsite.
• Could some play be removed to other parks? Difficulties and reluctance by the district and third parties was discussed.
• Have alternatives been found for soccer, should it have to move? No.
Rumsey discussed information-gathering steps. He said people need to observe the uses and play (note: schedules needed). Some observers have been recruited, including people living at a distance. The experience of teams, players, neighbors will be explicitly sought. This needs to include related issues such as trash handling. In short, there will be “secret shoppers,” information from teams and neighbors, and discussion with the Park District.
Friedman said we need to know what he neighbors really want for/in the park—and expect the teams to be doing, not just that they don’t want the baseball.
Rumsey: How can we provide more for girls, who play disproportionately in displaced soccer? Friedman suggested more coaches.
Silverman: What principles can we use to evaluate issues and programs: He suggested 1) an end-goal for the park and 2) when there are competing uses, the more compatible are to be preferred.
Jaeger: No one use should drive out others.
Snyder said historical uses of the park and field changes and the long history with team uses should be factored in.
Molasky said he is concerned about the division. The park has lots of use. The change was imposed and that caused strain.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:45 pm. Date of the next meeting was subsequently set as June 26, 7:30 pm.
Gary M. Ossewaarde
Newly minted committee fact-finding for best use of Kenwood Park. Herald, June 18, 2008. By Crystal Fencke
At the first official meeting of the Kenwood Park Usage Committee, leader George Rumsey considered it his chance to do "fact finding and become more knowledgeable about the park."
The committee was formed by Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) to "examine issues of Kenwood Park for the benefit of the greatest number of parties" using the park, said Rumsey.
The meeting took place on Wednesday, June 4 at the Hyde Park Bank and it was a separate meeting from that of the Kenwood Park Advisory Council (KPAC) the next evening at the Kenwood Park field house.
It is the culmination of a contentious year during which groups representing the Kenwood Park Advisory Council, Legends Baseball, neighbors with young children and others have experienced space conflicts. Many groups would like to use the park, and Preckwinkle formed the usage committee in an attempt to help them peacefully co-exist.
One of the main conflicts was the widening of the baseball diamond for older boys by the Chicago Park District for the use of the Legends Baseball group at the northwest corner of the park. The expansion occurred without notice to the Kenwood Park Advisory Council. The soccer field that already existed is now very close to that diamond and may be unusable, soccer coaches charge.
Any interested parties are invite to attend these monthly meeting. In order for them to work to the highest benefit, more attendance is desired. Unfortunately, not everyone contacted was there. According to Ald. Preckwinkle (4th), "I made specific requests to principles at Shoesmith, Ancona, Kenwood Academy, and Canter. I'll follow up." Some groups represented at Wednesday's meeting were Kenwood Park Advisory Council, South Side Fire Soccer Club and Legends Baseball.
Rumsey, who is also president of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (HP-KCC) doesn't' live near Kenwood Park, and therefore has "very little history of the park." Preckwinkle tapped him in April as a neutral party after a contentious year among neighbors regarding the diamond expansion.
"The process has really catalyzed people," said Jean Snyder of KPAC. Rumsey presented a few ways in which the fact-finding will happen: First, he's been quietly recruiting people from around the neighborhood -- "secret shoppers" -- to observe usage. He also said that he has promises from a number of contacts to take digital photos of groups using the park.
In addition, Rumsey sis going to get feedback from the teams and from neighbors. He asked everyone in the meeting to e-mail or call him with any ongoing questions or concerns, and he encourages any neighbor to do so.
Rumsey raised a number of questions. He asked what the requirements are for any park to host baseball. He asked if the soccer player wil find a new home if they don't play in the park.
Neighbors did express ongoing concerns about usage needs in Kenwood Park. Jonathan Silverman said tha younger kids playing in the park could get hit by hardballs of older kids. Roxanne Friedman of Legends Baseball disagreed, saying that the ball hasn't gone out of the infield.
Minutes, by Gary Ossewaarde
Kenwood Usage Committee – 2nd meeting June 26, 2008
The meeting was convened at 7:30 pm by George Rumsey, Chairman. Present: Mary Margaret Bell, Denis Bowen, Lauranita Dugas, Crystal Fencke, Roxanne Friedman, Winston Kennedy, Sophia Dorsey King, Julie Marie Lemon, Stephen Molasky, Marc Monaghan, Robert Naftzger, Gary Ossewaarde, Toni Preckwinkle, George W. Rumsey, Jesse Sinaiko, Lynn Small, Jean Maclean Snyder, Vicki Suchovsky, and Yvonne Taylor.
George Rumsey and Alderman Preckwinkle welcomed all. The chairman acknowledged those who could not attend and asked that when members cannot attend a future meeting they send a message.
Minutes of the previous meeting were accepted with correction of Lynn Small’s name.
Lynn small showed a simulation of the proposed low fence at the Lester J. Dugas Memorial Garden. Expected cost will be $4,000, to be raised by the Memorial group. Consensus was that the fence be approved. Suggested: Work with the Hyde Park Garden Fair committee for plants for next year.
No other unfinished business was addressed.
New business included various discussion points.
A Summary List of park problems was distributed. This is intended, Rumsey said, to start a paper record of matters the committee should ask the Chicago Park District to address. Many shared pictures. Most of the problems were acknowledged as long-standing, and several allegedly create health problems. The major categories are: Water drainage, Blowing dust, Trash accumulations, Repairs, and Landscape. Drainage and dust were considered among the most serious, each attributable to several factors. Yvonne Taylor for Legends Baseball offered to determine and get correct water fittings and hoses for the infields, with help from Ald. Preckwinkle. Decision was to see if consistent watering of the infields makes a difference.
Trash pickup was in general felt to be better since acquisition of the blue carts with wheels and lids, but some noted that field pickup is not timely after some games and that there is a problem getting the carts to the perimeter where the trash vendor will empty them. Taylor offered to take the lead in getting one or more youths to bring the carts to the edges.
The most serious needed repairs were said to be to the washrooms (there are also problems with their availability) and to drinking fountains and other plumbing including buried breaks. At times much of the northeast part of the park and the playground have standing water for long periods. A hose and connectors for Common Threads garden are also needed.
Julie Lemon reported that there have been no itemized capital and repair items for this park in Chicago Park District capital budgets since the playground (at least four years ago.) Rumsey asked members to submit any other repairs and matters needing to be brought to Park District attention. Noted was that persistent committees having aldermanic support are more likely to have needs addressed.
Information-gathering on park usage and condition was the other item of new business.
Rumsey distributed a draft observation report form that would be available in pdf for printing and be distributed to park users and the community. Several offered additional queries and other improvements to the form. Suggestions were offered on how to involve as many interested parties as possible, including school children and other youth. Getting a good list of users from the park supervisor was suggested. Rumsey reiterated that the survey is not “scientific” and thought the committee is sophisticated enough to take distortions into account.
Open to the floor:
Steven Molasky said he has seen baseballs being hit out of the infield. Queries were made about use of netting and other safety equipment recommended by leagues. Replies were that this will take time and money.
Yvonne Taylor distributed this year’s Legends baseball schedule. This was also requested to be sent to the whole membership by email.
The next meeting was provisionally set for Wednesday, July 30, 7 pm in the Hyde Park Bank Building 4th floor conference room.
There being no other business, the meeting was adjourned.
Gary M. Ossewaarde
Synopsis of the April 24 2008 special meeting convened by Ald. Preckwinkle at Kenwood Academy
By George Rumsey
The meeting was fairly productive. There were about 40 people in attendance, including Tim King [Chicago Park District Dir. of Legislative and Community Affairs]. He did say, on more than one occasion, that there had been no de certification or dissolution.
King said that ALL advisory councils within the city are being required to have new elections this summer. That making it seem Kenwood was not being picked out.
Kathy Sullivan, who originally wrote the KPAC bylaws, has rewritten them, which was fine by all.
Toni then explained about the parks usage committee, George Rumsey, chair. Several groups would participate in the decision-making process, including Kenwood High, Shoesmith, Canter, other schools, Chicago Fire, the Little League management, KPAC, and some neighbors who had funded major improvements. All seemed satisfied with that makeup (with the understanding that others are welcome too).
KPAC will have elections under their new bylaws in June or thereabouts. The membership committee (Sullivan) and the usage committee will meet before then to start formulating strategies. The next KPAC meeting (board meeting) will be, I think, May 8.
Rumsey has been forming his committee of stakeholders and others, will hold a walk through. He noted that the plan is to carefully observe the impacts of this season's baseball.
Rumsey to oversee Kenwood committee.
Hyde Park Herald, May 7, 2008. By Sam Cholke
George Rumsey told board members of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (HP-KCC) that he has been tapped by Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) to head a committee monitoring usage of Kenwood Park.
Rumsey, president of the HP-KCC, said the committee will bring representatives from about 15 groups that use the park together to discuss appropriate uses and expansion of the baseball diamond, on the northwestern corner of 50gh Street and Dorchester Avenue. "It means we're going to watch the baseball games, we're going to watch the soccer games, we're going to go the park on Sundays to see who's using he park," Rumsey said.
Rumsey said Preckwinkle felt he was a neutral party who could monitor uses of the park over the summer in cooperation with residents and help craft a decision about whether to leave the expanded baseball diamond in the fall.
Chairman of the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council Howard Males used to coach soccer at Kenwood Park, and Rumsey said he has agreed to help determine if there are space conflicts between the soccer and baseball fields
Users of the park began complaining last fall following and expansion of one of the park's baseball diamonds by the Chicago Park District -- a move that surprised everyone, including Preckwinkle.
Rumsey said the next step is to contact representatives of groups that use the park. He said anyone who foresees an issue affecting the park that may otherwise be overlooked should contact him.
Kenwood Park Advisory Council to begin anew. Herald, April 30, 2008. by Crystal Fence
The Kenwood Park Advisory Council (KPAC) will begin anew in May as a reorganized body with two committees in order to better coordinate issues at Kenwood Park, said Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) at an organizational meeting held on April 24. This will be a continuation of the current council but with a tighter framework, she said.
The new format of KPAC is the alderman's response to the two ongoing issues distressing the group and other for months: the recently reconfigured baseball diamond in Kenwood Park and the notification of de authorization of KPAC from the Chicago Park District (CPD) offices.
Preckwinkle announced that George Rumsey, president of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community [Conference], will chair a park usage committee, to discuss shared use of the park. She has also asked Kathy Sullivan, an active KPAC member, to head a fundraising committee.
Representatives of KPAC, the Chicago Park District, Friends of the Parks and Hyde Park Legends Baseball passionately discussed the Chicago Park District's enlarging of a baseball diamond by 50 feet last October. Legends had been interested in enlarging the diamond for the use of 13-to-15-year-old players; however, the Chicago Park District made the change without communicating with Legends or KPAC at the time.
Members of KPAC and some other neighbors had opposed this increase prior to CPD's move because it would take too much space away from unstructured activities for senor citizens, children and others. The increased diamond also took area away from and existing soccer field. Preckwinkle was concerned after it occurred because she thought "the park advisory council should have been given a 'heads up.'"
Notification of the de-activation of KPAC was hotly discussed as well. CPOD attorney Timothy King said that the district is taking control of park advisory councils citywide and that the Kenwood Park group wasn't being singled out. Formalization oft he process is important, he said, due to safety concerns because the parks "are in the business of kids." More paperwork for advisory council members is part of this process, as well as yearly elections of officers for interested neighbors, he said.
Preckwinkle was eager to resolve the issues and go forward. "We have a good problem, which is that lots of people want to use the park," she said.
Steve Molasky parses meeting, field use issue in Herald Letter April 3o
The Kenwood Park controversy lives on in spite of the Park District and the alderman's attempts to bury it. The aldermanic meeting called to discuss this last Thursday was bizarre. Park District counsel, Tim King, praised Ald. Preckwinkle's (4th) wisdom in backing the baseball expansion and defended the parks' decision to de authorize the existing advisory council and replace it this June with a new one. He explained that it would only be fair if anyone could show up for this new election in June and vote. Never mid we once had bylaws which required attendance at more than one meeting before a member could vote for new officers. This was meant to discourage what is now happening with a private, single-issue baseball league determined to pack meetings and to take over our park. Never mind that this will set a terrible precedent when fine park volunteers are told to get lost and are replaced and insulted simply because they dared to disagree with their alderman and the Park District over proper and safe park usage.
Mr. King also maintained that the parks did not really expand the northwest baseball diamond--it got expanded through a process of "erosion." Never mind the baselines were expanded from 60 to 90 feet. Somehow the Park District creates it own reality, its own facts. He went on to dismiss safety concerns as pure nonsense, since 11- and 12-year-old boys could never hit a hardball hard enough to injure anyone. Never mid that most Babe Ruth players range in age from 13 to 17, and really can wallop dangerous foul falls all over the place.
Both King and Preckwinkle also attempted to perpetuate the groundless rumor that opponents of Babe Ruth Baseball at Farmer's Filed were rally opposed to all organized team and group activities for kids in Kenwood Park. Preckwinkle maintained that she knows this because she has emails opposed to all baseball to prove it, and King admonished the audience to remember that Babe Ruth ball was a major part of saving at-risk, urban boys at a age when they needed organized sports to keep them out of harm's way. Never mind that Kenwood Academy kids have now been displaced from their home soccer field which is now far too small for regulation play. Never mind tha a very significant percent of the local Babe Ruth boys attend the Lab School and other private schools (do they need to be kept off the streets?) Never mind that at least 30 percent of the children who play soccer in our neighborhood are girls, and most of them have now been displaced by the baseball expansion. Never mid that t he diamonds become muddy bogs in wet weather and swirling dust bowls in hot, dry weather, and never mind that hundreds of kids can no longer enjoy a large, grassy central field which is no longer there for their supervised and unsupervised play. Also, never mind that when a Babe Ruth game or practice is going on almost all other park activity will have to cease.
Doctor Al Klinger scolded the park officials for trying to marginalize and even demonize opponents of Babe Ruth Baseball in our tiny park. He hinted that just about everyone feels baseball is a very important sport for our kids, and wondered why the parks could not locate a safer place for teen hardball such as Jackson Park, Washington Park, Burnham Park or Mandrake Park.
We understand that a risk assessment study of the park and its fields was commissioned of an athletics risk management legal firm by a group of residents in April 2008. The conclusions will be among resources used by the Park Use Committee appointed by Ald. Preckwinkle. Inquiries about the risk study may be addressed to George Rumsey, chair of the Parks Use committee and a cc of the study.
Over 100 attended a January 9 2008 community meeting called by the council (even though the council's credentials have been challenged ant there will be a new signup and elections in March.) Ald. Preckwinkle, Park District leaders, leaders of the baseball and soccer leagues, Neighborhood Parks manager for Friends of the Parks, council members and many residents attended. Overviews, reports and positions were presented or distributed on perceived impact of expansion of one of the baseball fields for baseball league play for 11-13 year olds and possible increase of use. Most important was an agreement between sports leagues--acknowledged by each to be sub-optimal- for scheduled use for 2008. Alderman Preckwinkle said she had discussed this with Parks Superintendent Mitchell and they agreed this would be implemented. A great many in the audience objected to this, calling it a giveaway of public use of land for an exclusive and private user at the expense of others, and sure to aggravate problems of dust and mud, noise, congestion etc. in a park that is increasingly called upon to serve many users, ever more intently. Sports teams organizers, parents and supporters just as passionately argued their case and facts. Those dissatisfied with the outcome formed an ad hoc committee in lieu of waiting for a March meeting. People were asked to sign up for notification of the March meeting.
A special meeting of stakeholders and citizens on the baseball diamond issues was held Tuesday, November 13. Thorough discussion was held of many viewpoints and needs. Lack of process and communication, 30' impingement of the expanded baseball field on the soccer field, concerns about increased impact, congestion, safety, environmental and other degradation of the park.
The decision proposed by Ald. Preckwinkle with wide endorsement was that baseball and soccer work out a schedule that avoids conflicts and over programming (target early December) and that the expanded field and program (including ages 13-15) be tried for a year. Note, one proposal was to situate the soccer field diagonally.) The sports teams also to police the park and otherwise act responsibly.
In other news, the new carts are in the park (with bids system wide going out for a vendor that can separate recyclables) and planning is proceeding on major work on drainage and buffalo boxes (water supply to keep the field dust down and water the lawn.)
Contact Julie Lemon.
Report on the October 23 2007 special meeting on the baseball diamond enlargement for kids of a higher age.
Residents cry foul over park changes. Hyde Park Herald, October 31, 007. By Georgia Geis
The Chicago Park District, in conjunction with Hyde Park Kenwood Legends Baseball League, recently increased on of the baseball diamonds to a regulation field size at the Kenwood Community Park , 130 E. 50th St.
Not everyone is happy about the change, though.The Kenwood Community Park Advisory Council were not consulted about the renovation and confronted Chicago park District Central Region Manager, Arthur Richardson and member of the Legends board at their meeting last week.
"I'm involved in this discussion because many people in the neighborhood looked out and saw a significant change in the park," said Julie Marie Lemon, head of the advisory council. "You are cranking it up a level. The fields are deeper. The character and some intentions of the park have changed significantly."
Richardson said he accepts full responsibility for not contacting the council about what he said was part of deferred maintenance and safety concerns of the baseball fields.
Heinrich Jaeger, who lives near the park, said he thought the expanded baseball diamond presented a host of problems. "I have to say there are issues piled on top of issues. The existing diamonds created problems, drainage being one of them. Instead of fixing those problems now one of the diamonds suddenly gets much larger to the extent it cuts into the soccer field," said Jaeger.
The council members also voiced concerns about longstanding issues such as the need for more trash cans, dust control, drainage problems in the park and around the perimeter of the park on the sidewalks, and the safety concerns of hard ball baseball being played at a park with many different aged users. "If we can't even get garbage can, why would anyone come to the advisory council meetings?" said Kenwood resident Jean MacLean Snyder.
In response to this concern first brought to the Park District's attention more than ay ear ago, Richardson said he would deliver new garbage cans with recycling capacity to the park within one week. [Ed.- the drums were too attractive to thieves!]
Evonne Taylor, president of Legends, said she was surprised that there was opposition to the improvement of the baseball field. "From our perspective we feel we do a huge neighborhood service. We are actually surprised by all this," said Taylor. "We thought we went through the right channels." Taylor said Legends has committed to have a volunteer pull out the trash cans after every game and to hose down the field 5 days a week. [Ed. Reason given for the expansion was that this is the only suitable place in the area for a field at which 13-15 year olds can play.]
Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) was present at the meeting and asked that the advisory council address the issues at length at an upcoming meeting. [Ed.-one of these is the extent of overlap between the expanded baseball field and the soccer field.]
"I'm grateful to the park advisory council for their good work and their willingness to gather resources and I'm grateful to our baseball people and the countless hours I know they spend to make sure our kids have fun and productive things to do," said Preckwinkle. "I look forward to the meeting on Nov. 13, when we will have a little more information and can see where we are."
Expanded ball field sparking debate. [See below on petition drive.]
Herald, January 2, 2008. By Georgia Geis
The Kenwood Community Park Advisory Council, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), Shoesmith Elementary School principal Patricia Watson, representatives from Hyde Park-Kenwood Legends Baseball League, representatives from South Side FIRE Soccer League and Kenwood Academy, among others will meet to discuss Kenwood Park's expanded baseball field at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Kenwood Community Park field house, 1330 E. 50th St.
Last October, the advisory council confronted the Chicago Park District and Legends about expansion of one of the baseball diamonds by 50 percent - bringing it to a regulation-sized field - without consulting the council.
"We still believe there are a lot of problems with the bigger ball field and with bigger, older players playing hard ball at the park," said council member Jean Maclean Snyder.
One of the issues to be resolved is whether the soccer players from both the FIRE league and the Kenwood Academy Boys Soccer Team will be able to share the park for their games. Danny Friedman of Legends said they have had private meetings with FIRE and the park district and have discussed the possibility of moving soccer play to another park after this year. He said he has no idea what is on the agenda for the Jan. 9 meeting.
"This park has a long history, a history of people doing a treat job to make this a beautiful park," said Friedman. "I'm just proud to be working with Legends, and the work that is done is not an option for the park district to offer. This is an entirely volunteer board and what they are doing is a great contribution to the community."
Snyder said she encourages park users to come out to the meeting and give their input on these important issues. She said tha the advisory council hopes to have a meting with the park district and Legends before the Jan. 9 meeting.
For more information, contact president of the advisory council Julie Lemon at email@example.com. Top
Reports and letters in the January 16, 2008 Herald on the baseball field and January 9 meeting
Kenwood Park deal keeps field for year. By Georgia Geis
This fall the Chicago Park District granted the longtime request by the Hyde Park Legends to increase the size of the baseball field to that of a regulation field at the Kenwood Community park 1330 E. 50th St. This expansion, intended to accommodate teams of 13- to 15-year-olds, was done without a discursion with Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), the advisory council or the community at large. Users of the Kenwood Park are now grappling with what that unexpected expansion will mean.
"One day I walked there and there it was. I was really taken back by the changes," said longtime Kenwood resident Ed Danforth. "The more important thing is t hat t here ought to be an open reconsideration involving everyone concerned."
Danforth, who played baseball in high school and has umpired little league in Kenwood, said he personally thinks the decision should be reversed and the clay used to to expand the field should be re seeded.
Nearly 125 community members filled the sanctuary of the Church of Saint Paul and the Redeemer,4945 S. Dorchester Ave., last Wednesday to discuss the expanded ball field and issues including safety, organized single use versus multiple use of the park, amount of green space and trash. The meeting had ben called by the four member advisory council at the park field house but was move to the church when the group was informed by t Chicago Park District (CPD) that their council was not recognized because they had failed to submit the proper paperwork.
During the meeting Preckwinkle explained her decision to allow Legends to play on the expanded field for a one-year trial period. "The park district, by the time I discovered this is what they were doing with the park, [the district] was in the middle of expanding that field and I was faced with a tough decision--mainly what to do. I could ask the park district to go back and reseed the field or go forward with the expansion of the diamond.
Preckwinkle said she felt comfortable with her decision especially considering it was an interim solution and she would revisit how to better accommodate the larger community after one year.
"I know that here are some people who would prefer, frankly, that the park be more passive in its use and have less organized activities in the park, and I can only say that I profoundly disagree," said Preckwinkle, who commended legends for their efforts to get young people involved in sports.
Evonne Taylor, who has been the president of Legends for two years, apologized to those at the meting for the way the expansion was handled. "We grossly underestimated the response [of] the community and we grossly underestimated what they would want and why they would be upset about the expansion of the field," Taylor said. "And we were probably, quite frankly, were just looking at our own needs, an for that I apologize to this community."
Legends, which has organized baseball games at the park for more than three decades, will be expanding their their league to include four teams of 13- to 15-year-old players, which will mean 48 new players Taylor said she understands that the organization has only been granted one year to use the new regulation field and that she hopes that Legends can work with the community to address ongoing issues.
In order to make the expansion to the baseball diamond, the soccer field has been turned diagonally to fit between the clay areas. Peter Schielder, the coach of Kenwood Academy Boys Soccer team, said he was surprise to find out about the changes. "The expansion happened during our season so that was kind of a shock," said Schielder.
Schielder said the smaller diagonal field will make it difficult for his high school students to play games and also requested to meet with Legends about some conflicts on Fridays this fall. Taylor said they will make arrangements for those conflicts. The other two private soccer leagues, South Side Fire Soccer and t he Hyde Park Soccer Club, have made a schedule agreement with Legends for 2008.
There are some issue such as excessive dust, improper drainage of the field and more trash pick up that all users of the park including Legends feel the park district needs to address.
Taylor said she had hoped to hear more specific actions the community wanted to see happen. "We would have liked to have heard some things Legends could do given a decision has been made," said Taylor. "That would have been a more helpful and productive conversation to here from the neighbors [-] what else we could do given we were granted the one year to run this program."
Julie Marie Lemon, president of the now dissolved advisory council, said she was excited to see so many people interested in the park and was looking forward to having more community meetings. "Some people were frustrates that we didn't talk about the future, but a lot of the residents didn't even know what had happened," said Lemon.
The elections for the advisory council will take place in March and Preckwinkle urged concerned residents to come out and become a part of the new council. Some people are saying that March is too long to wait for further decisions. "The energy is there. We don't want to drop this ball of energy. We want to keep the conversation going," said Lemon.
John Paul Jones with t he Friends of the Parks agrees that these community talks should continue. "We don't want to discourage at all the great work that Legends has done over there for what is 30 years in which they have been operating formally under the farmers' field ground. Baseball is the heart of Kenwood," said Jones. "It's not healthy for us to discourage people to assemble and exchange information. Neighbors should do that at all times and whenever possible. That would be helpful for the park council when they do organize to have some platform of issues the community has already assembled to look at."
For more information, contact Legends at 353-1578 or email Julie Lemon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hannah Hayes says baseball should be supported in Hyde Park
I attended last Wednesday's meeting concerning Hyde Park-Kenwood Legends Baseball League's plan to include 13-15 year olds, My son, who is now 12, has ben with Legends since he was four-and-a-half. I won't list the wonderful things he has learned about sportsmanship and team play, but i will say it is beyond me why people would be against organized, constructive activity for youth in our community.
As I listened to those opposed to baseball in Kenwood Park, I actually heard many of my own concerns about the problems with dust and mud and safety issues around traffic. These are Park District maintenance issues we should be addressing as a community. But I also heard misinformation, implications of corruption on the part of a very hard-working, volunteer board whose members have stellar credentials, as well as subtle (and not so subtle comments) about "our" park. I was personally offended when someone suggested we "organize in another neighborhood." Why should I do that when we have the facilities and the interest in our own community? Another resident claimed that Legends' kids were not from Hyde Park, which besides being untrue, is a loaded statement with many implications.
Legends has been in Hyde Park for 30 years - the baseball diamonds have been there longer. They are heavily used because baseball games are a community event, where kids from Murray and Ray see friends from Shoesmith, Lab and Ancona, and vice versa. Parents get to see neighbors and friends after a long winter and talk about local elections, middle schools and new principals, the future of the Co-Op and the Olympics in Washington Park. Some 10,000 plus Hyde Park kids have grown up with Legends.
No one is saying Kenwood Park should be exclusively baseball--three hours a day for a few months out of the year is hardly monopolizing. The Legends' board appears to have a good working relationship with the soccer parties involved and have indicated they will compromise. As a parent, I am happy to work with an advisory council to resolve other issues. But the current group of residents who are against the diamonds must open up - and this means having an election to make them a representative advisory council. They owe that much to the children who have grown up with Legends and to those of us who may live five blocks away but still view it as our park too.
Stephen Molasky says compromise will keep park goers happy, dislikes the expansion
I have lived in this ward for close to 14 years now. When we moved here, Kenwood Park was a disaster, full of broken glass, mud or dust no grass. Full of litter and with a dangerous "playground" with broken equipment and weeds growing up through hard, broken blacktop.
My neighbors and I formed and advisory council. It took years for us to get th e Park district to at first just clean up the park and try to keep it free of garbage and broken glass. Then we had many meetings to establish priorities and develop a neighborhood spirit dedicated to making our park a real community park, that served everyone in the neighborhood.
At first, the baseball people seemed to consider us a threat to their program, but I thought we resolved that issue a long time ago. We have always tolerated the crowds, the noise, the mud in winter, the dust in summer, the litter and the lack of parking. My son played little league there and our family often enjoyed watching Jerome's classmate, Ethan Blumenthal, hone his baseball skills across the street. I don't think anyone here wants to stop baseball. It is always a festive atmosphere when diamonds are full of kids in their uniforms and the stands are full of parents cheering them on. The problem is when the kids are not there during the long off-season when they are in school. Even before this sudden, undiscussed and unannounced change, the field already had one small and three medium sixed diamonds, which became ankle deep in mud in cold weather and swirling dist storms in warm weather during the ... The existing baseball program already took up a significant amount of space.
My family nd our neighbors participated in dozens of previous meetings to reach a consensus. Many of us raised and donated thousands of dollars to improve Kenwood park to match or enhance Park District funds. Now we have a safe and wonderful playground and some nice landscaping, thanks to our joint efforts with the city. We were very concerned about maintaining a sense of balance and harmony between the various groups that frequented our small park.It is a SMALL park and compromise and accommodation was required to maintain good relations among all of us.
Kenwood Park also became a great place to play and watch youth soccer. My son state out in the park with T-ball and has been a South Side Fire player for five years now, often playing home games across the street along with kids from about five other Fire teams. He tells me diagonal fields are confusing, and now that is t he only accommodation we soccer people may get, a very small diagonal field bordered by dust or mud, and a questionable schedule of availability. Many of the soccer games involved our local girls teams. Soccer is not only the fastest growing sport in the United States, it has become as important a sport for girls and women as football is for guys. I gather some want to turn this into a class or racial thing. My son's Fire team, like all of he local South Side Fire teams, is a rainbow team.
Remember the photographer, Nancy Hays, the wonderful "tree lady" who lived at t he corner of Dorchester and 50th? She helped to save the giant cottonwood tree in our park, which was also scheduled for removal for baseball reasons. I think she's turning over in her grave right now.
What kind of a community do we want here? Do we want a community full of resentment?
Some of the former activists on th park advisory council were the first to notice the destruction of our field. They were told by our alderman that they had "No STANDING." Can you imagine the chutzpah? How could our duly elected alderman tell those of us who spent hundred of hours and thousands of our own dollars to make our parks safe, attractive and inclusive that we have "no standing?" Do we have an elected leader in this ward or do we have a dictatorial boss?
I think her decision to facilitate this was a mistake. It takes a big person to admit she was wrong. ...She might reverse this after hearing from enough of us and do the right thing: replant and re-sod where the additional mud has encroached on the green part of our park and give back an even better rectangular, non-diagonal soccer field, with nice, even turf.
It took years of meeting and conversations to achieve a sense of balance and harmony between the many different park users. There has been more than enough recent bad news and strife in Hyde Park without an unnecessary battle over our little park which we were all sharing quite well until this happened.
Continuing in the January 23 Herald, Molasky adds that
A deal is not a deal when one side is told to cave in. A deal is not a deal when one group imposes its will on all others. A deal is not a deal when no discussions and compromises that place BEFORE a major change is carried out. There are many reasons to quickly restore Farmer's Field back to its previous state:
1. TEN Southside Fire soccer teams lost their best and most convenient home field which best represented our neighborhood to visiting families from all over Chicago land. Ten teams, their families and coaches have been displaced for ONE Babe Ruth level hardball team.
2. Kenwood Academy's soccer teams have also been displaced.
3. Shoesmith School's soccer teams have also been displaced.
4. The summer camp program has also been compromised and restricted by th new diamond, double its previous side.
5. Highest and best use of the park's limited space: The baseball diamonds become ugly, muddy, ankle deep bogs or mini dust bowls during the long seven to eight month off season when there is no baseball. a large central soccer field is beautiful, environmentally friendly and useable most of the time for everybody, from dog owners to touch football players.
6. Safety: Farmer's Field was gifted to the city for children. Most of the kids who use the park ar YOUNG children who could be injured by errant line drives or sprinting fielders chasing fly balls. The youngest kids will be playing in a fine, nw playground right next to the big hardball diamond if this is allowed to stand.
7. Process. Bulldozers suddenly showed up and destroyed as regulation soccer field before any real process or discussions could take place. It would be bad enough if this happened in a neighborhood where people are complacent or disengaged, but NOT in Hyde Park.
8. Community. Divisive rhetoric and race baiting and class warfare have no legitimate place in OUR neighborhood where the vast majority believe in and have worked all their lives for civil rights, equality and social justice.
9. Democracy: An autocratic, uncommunicative alderman claims she knew nothing of this while also saying she knew the baseball "Legends" have been lobbying for this for years. Why didn't she advise them to engage the community which might need to be sold n the benefits of a Babe Ruth field dominating a small, neighborhood park. If she was not involved in the decision to send in the bulldozers, why did she immediately ally herself with the baseball folks and try to muzzle opposition from the neighborhood, Shoesmith, Kenwood Academy and the Park District?
10. BECAUSE IT JUST WASN'T THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
Dr. Alfred Klinger thinks the new configuration and ball for older boys unsafe.
The following letter to Ald. Preckwinkle dated January 17 2008 was cc'd the Conference and subsequently published in the Herald January 23.
The more I hear of the baseball programs being planned for Kenwood Park for teenagers, the more I have become dismayed. Having played numerous hard ball games when I was a teenager plus as a physician knowing the shock and consequences of injury, I can tell you from first hand experience, playing with, throwing and hitting a big league hard ball is not to be underestimated. It can break a person's leg, ar and if struck in the head with enough speed it can kill. To use a multiuse facility like Kenwood park with its postage stamp size for games which last a huge part of the day is guaranteeing something tragic is going to happen. It is most likely to happen to pedestrians who are not concentrating on where the bal is hit and will be in no position to maneuver out of the way. It is also going to happen to a very young child playing close by either in the playlots or who has wandered close to the action inadvertently. The city and the park district are going to be held liable in a big way when this happens. Teenagers, no matter how good or poor their skills are, are not in control of their strength. Foul balls which can go in any direction, will go into the playlots and on to the pedestrian right of ways, no matt3r what can be done to prevent them unless enormously long and high fences are placed along the entire field at great cost. Even then balls have a habit of clearing fences and hitting people, children and smashing windows. I hardly will mention how badly the infield dirt mucks up walkways, shoes and grass particularly when it is wet or blows about when it is dry due to poor monitoring and maintenance.
I am decidedly against using Kenwood Park by teenagers for hard ball baseball. I believe these youngsters ned a place to play in this neighborhood, safely, whereever possible. But not in a park the size of Kenwood Park. Kenwood Park is used for pedestrians who stroll, walk their animals, for very young children who play in the little leagues, for those playing softball, who play in th playlot, for soccer football, for all kinds of games by people of all ages, for people relaxing, sitting, talking, having picnics and all kinds of leisurely activities. It is not only dangerous to suddenly turn Kenwood Park over to regulation hard ball baseball which will pretty much put an end to all other recreation, it is a monopoly which shows a lack of consideration for those of us who live close and have been using the facility in all sorts of ways for years and years. Hard ball baseball by teenagers is a terrible way to use Kenwood Park. This community, this city, on the other hand, should find a place for these enthusiastic teenagers to play. Hard ball baseball is a great, challenging game and should be encouraged to develop coordination, skill and confidence.
Bob Naftzger, landscaper and neighbor, said in February 6 Herald, Kenwood Park at baseball diamond limit.
I have lived across the street from Kenwood Community Park for 35 years. during that time, I have seen expansion of the park's facilities and a significant increase in the park's organized activities with the introduction of a summer day camp, Little League baseball and soccer. And the organized activities, as well as the frequent free use of he park's facilities by adults and children, undoubtedly have benefited greatly our community.
However, I feel strongly that Kenwood Park has now reached a limit with regard to its space for organized baseball. The park's grassy playing field is only about two-thirds of a square block and has four ball diamonds with a shared outfield. The diamond infields are dirt and bordered by chain link fencing which generally detracts from the park';s natural setting. The infields also produce dust in dry, windy weather and mud in wet weather; some of the dust ends up in people's homes and some of the mud on sidewalks. In the past this has been a situation which people, including myself, have accepted as a cost of having a Little League program. But now, as reported in recent issues of he Herald, the Chicago Park District, without prior community input, has doubled the size of one of the infields to accommodate the Legends organization's plan for Babe Ruth baseball in the park.
If this action is not undone, this year practically everyone who relates to the park, unrelated to the Legends organization, will suffer. There will not only be more dirt, dust, mud and ugly fencing, but also significantly less grassy field for soccer and other recreation. This is a situation which I and many others do not find acceptable.
Margaret and Winston Kennedy says expansion needed resident input and should be stopped. Herald February 28, 2008
Kenwood Park (Farmer's Field) has successfully hosted children's baseball leagues for more than 30 years. More recently, soccer leagues have also used the park. The surrounding neighbors of this residential community have supported these uses and continues to do so.
Recently, the city expanded one of the baseball diamonds to accommodate hardball and older players. This was done without any attempt to measure the reaction of local residents. Hardball does not belong in a small park in a residential neighborhood. It is a safety hazard to both children and seniors who frequent the park.
The baseball diamond expansion made the soccer field too small for regulation competition, thus forcing the soccer league to look elsewhere. There are other locations suitable for hardball that will not offend local residents or present safety concerns.
Clearly, the city has been high-handed. We ask that it undo the damage and restore tranquility to Kenwood.
Julie Lemon for Council says We're for baseball at Kenwood--within reason. Herald February 28, 2008
Regarding the discussion of Babe Ruth baseball in Kenwood Community Park I would like to clarify three issues:
*No one is against Hyde Park Kenwood Legends baseball league using Kenwood Community Park. Legends is a highly valued little league baseball organization with many volunteers who work tirelessly for all the kids. Legend's use of the park is not at risk, nor has it been. Two-thirds of the park is physically devoted to little league baseball (four ball diamonds on 3.1 acres). They have been playing at Kenwood Park for years with a great deal of support from parents the community and the neighborhood.
*We are in favor of a multi-use field (which Kenwood Park has been) vs. a single-purpose use of the field when Babe Ruth baseball is in the mix. We support the chance for the whole community to weigh in on how the park is used. The current opposition in the community is regarding the expansion of one of the existing little league diamonds into a regulation size diamond or Babe Ruth baseball (hardball). In doing this, the center field between the already existing four diamonds has been compromised and cannot accommodate the other diverse sports activities it has previously, such as soccer (both for young and high school kids), touch football and community pick-up games.
*We support the Babe Ruth league; in fact, it is a highly important and needed sports activity in our community. However, many question the wisdom, the need and the safety of having such an activity in this small community park. Everyone I know is wiling to work together to find Babe Ruth league kids a great place to play and is willing to work as a community to find a suitable location for these kids to play freely.
Chicago Tribune, March 20008
Some Kenwood neighbors feel shut out of park
By Robert Mitchum
10:15 PM CDT, March 12, 2008
In a city where thousands of youth and adult sports teams jostle
for limited urban green space each spring, a modification to one
tiny neighborhood park has inflamed tensions between neighbors in
Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood.
At a contentious meeting Wednesday night of the Chicago Park
District Board of Commissioners, one of those factions submitted a
petition angrily declaring that Kenwood Park was suddenly and
unfairly altered from a versatile play area to a one-sport field
when bulldozers expanded a baseball field last fall.
Kenwood resident Stephen Molasky bemoaned the loss in his own South
Side neighborhood of a suitable field for his son's own soccer team.
"It's not a choice between passive use and active use," Molasky
said. "What's happened is the expansion of the field has pretty
much made everything else unavailable."
Kenwood Park, located between 49th and 50th Streets and Kenwood and
Dorchester Avenues, takes up barely one square city block, and is
surrounded by stately homes, Shoesmith Elementary School and nearby
Kenwood Academy High School.
On about Oct. 13, bulldozers arrived unexpectedly to expand one of
the park's four clay baseball diamonds to the regulation size for
kids age 13 to15.
That alteration, some residents say, has turned a park used for
soccer, skating and other activities into an area fit for baseball
alone. Other residents counter that it's a small change that will
increase the amount of activities available to Hyde Park and
"Our feeling is that the league would add welcome structured
activity for our boys," said Evonne Taylor, president of Hyde Park
Legends Baseball, which will operate the league. "It's a way for us
to contribute to the neighborhood again."
Taylor, who also lives across the street from Kenwood Park, said
that Legends has been organizing baseball games for children
younger than 12 in the park for 30 years. Rising participation
raised demand for a league for older children, and Legends asked
the Park District for an expansion of one field's baselines from 60
to 90 feet.
Last fall, to Taylor's surprise, that request was filled, as
workers lengthened the northwest baseball infield by removing grass
and adding clay, reducing the grassy area at the center of the park
that is commonly used for soccer. The modification caught many
people by surprise, including residents, area soccer teams and Ald.
Toni Preckwinkle (4th).
After community meetings, petitioning and angry letters from both
sides, Preckwinkle said she decided to use this year as a trial for
the park's new configuration, asking local baseball and soccer
organizations to negotiate a compromise schedule.
Steve Schacht, acting president of the South Side Fire soccer club,
which has four teams that play at Kenwood Park, said that his teams
agreed to move their games to Sunday mornings to accommodate the
baseball schedule, though the space is less than ideal and can only
be used by younger players. He said his club is looking into
"We were very happy with Kenwood. If the field hadn't been
expanded, we would stay there," Schacht said. "But once the
bulldozers came through, there wasn't a whole lot that could be done."
Also displaced are the soccer teams from Kenwood Academy, whose
boys team played on the field, athletic director Sara Lee said. The
school is deciding where to play this fall, she said.
Several park advocates said it was sad to see a small, revitalized
park at the middle of a neighborhood dispute.
"This is a good park, and it's unfortunate to see it come to a
point where there is a fracture," said Erma Tranter, president of
Friends of the Parks.
Also at Wednesday night's meeting, another group waved signs urging
the Park District to stop construction of a new soccer field in
Board President Gery Chico addressed the many vocal opponents of
the new artificial-turf soccer field being built with funds from
the private Latin School in Lincoln Park. In response to threats of
legal action from the Committee to Keep Lincoln Park Public, Chico
described the situation as a "tough, tough choice between two very
strong competing interests."
"It's nice to have passion about these parks one way or the other,"
Crain's' Chicago Business July 21, 2008 carried an article on dilemmas "Jockeying for space in city parks" by Lisa Bertagnoli. Featured were Grant, Lakeshore East, Wicker, dog conflicts in general, Lincoln (Latin School field), and Kenwood Park (details in Kenwood Park.)
(Note, this editor, GO, recognizes that this article does not go accurately deeply into the issues, but does try to put them in city context and quotes some locals.)
.... Complaints from neighbors are also simmering in Kenwood Park, on the South Side. This past year, the park district added [sic] a baseball diamond to the park and refurbished another one [sic]. Some say the work was done without residents' knowledge and would not have been their choice of how to use the space.
"People are pretty angry," says George Rumsey, president of the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference... Mr Rumsey... says the Kenwood Park Advisory Council was not told about the new baseball diamond. A spokeswoman for the Chicago Park District says a "community group" and Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th) agreed t the field expansion. Dissenters, the spokeswoman says, were not on record as being official members of the Kenwood Advisory Council.
According to Mr. Rumsey, the additional diamond has cramped the already-small park, forcing regular users to adapt until a park-usage study is completed and enacted. The sports teams, for instance, have agreed to play more away games. "Nobody's thrilled, but for one summer, they're willing to get by," Mr. Rumsey says.
But the extra [sic] field rankles residents, who say teams leave trash behind and kick up dust that renders the park unusable on game days. Hyde Park Kenwood Legends, the baseball league that calls Kenwood Park home, has hired someone to water the fields to keep the dust down and to bring trash bins to the street to be empties after games.
But Evonne Taylor, Legends president, thinks the animosity stems from more than dust and trash. To her, the real issue is that the league has expanded to include older children--the "big kids" that fall through the cracks in the parks system. To keep smaller kids safe, regulations forbid children older than 12 to play on the equipment in the playlots. So outside of organized sports, there is no real destination for older children in the parks. This galls Ms. Taylor... whose sons are 9 and 10. "They don't like this age group in the park," Ms. Taylor says. "Many times, you se the signs: '12-year-olds can't play here.' That's very hurtful. My son wil be 11 years old, and the next year you don't want him in your park?"
Being able to participate in the softball league-- and using the parks as they were designed, as free outdoor space for city residents-- will teach children good stewardship of public land, Ms. Taylor says. "This is something for everyone's use and everyone's beauty," she says. "If you rip it up and you can't play here, it wil impact someone's lifestyle."
Hyde Park Herald, March 19, 2008. By Georgia Geis
KP residents petition to resize baseball field
The debate over the baseball field at kenwood Park rages on as a group of Kenwood residents presented a petition to Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Chicago Park District [that] asked the city to restore the field to its original size. Steve Molasky, who lives across the street from the park, said he and 10 other neighbors gathered 215 signatures during the last month. "We thought we weren't being heard," said Molasky. "We were dismissed as a small group of NIMBY's."
Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), who was also taken by surprise when the city enlarged baseball diamond within the park last fall, said she would revisit the issue next fall after giving Hyde Park Legends Baseball one year to use the increased ball field for its Babe Ruth league of 13-15-year-olds. She said the petition would not change that timetable. "We will revisit this in October -- that has not changed," Preckwinkle said. "I will communicate with those people who have signed the petition on how his came about and what we hope to do about it."
In order to make the expansion to the baseball diamond, the soccer field has been reduced in size and turned diagonally to fit between the clay areas. The two private soccer leagues South Side Fire Soccer club and the Hyde Park Soccer Club have made a schedule agreement with Legends for 2008. The older children on those leagues will be playing at a different park. The Kenwood Academy Boys Soccer team is still looking for a location for practices and home games.
Preckwinkle said she spoke with the athletic director at Kenwood Academy and asked her to attend upcoming advisory council meetings to provide input.
Evonne Taylor, president of Legends, said she too could gather signatures in support of keeping the expanded ball field and league. "Well, if signatures are the test, I should be giving the 350 families we service an opportunity to sign a petition," said Taylor, who also lives across the street from the park. "I guess we have a contest to see who can get more signatures. If someone wants me to do that, I can." Top
HPKCC's letter and re-reply to Chicago Park District on part of the Kenwood issues is in the Park Issues Page of this website.
Here is the report published in the HPKCC Conference Reporter March 2008.
Kenwood Park and Kenwood Council Dispute Affects Community
by Gary Ossewaarde
A dispute over expansion of one of the baseball diamonds in Kenwood Community Park (Farmers Field, at 50th and Dorchester) ended in challenges to the validity of the advisory council. The HPKCC parks committee (chair, Gary Ossewaarde) was asked to look into the matter by council leaders, one of whom answered questions from the Conference board in February.
While the Conference has not taken a position on the expansion of t his diamond for league play by 11-13-year olds, we wrote Park District General Superintendent Timothy Mitchell of our concern about status of the council, allegedly over lost registration paperwork, and the likely role of an absence of consistent, objective and transparent procedures and environment for establishment, accountability, listening to or dissolution of park advisory councils.
We in fact found differences even in Hyde Park that could not be accounted for by park sizes, needs, or offerings. And we found that when this particular dispute led to deadlock between two powerful sets of park neighbors and users that could not be resolved with satisfaction to both parties by the council with help from the local alderman, it was all too easy for some party to inquire into the council's standing via filed paperwork, which was then not found.
"As is often the case," we wrote the Superintendent, "the informal and inconsistent operating practices of the Park District were not a problem until a dispute erupted. This is exactly the time when a transparent and empowered Advisory Council should be available to help resolve the issue." We concluded that consistent, objective, and transparent policy "is necessary for us to be confident that the seven Park Advisory Councils currently in Hyde Park and South Kenwood are properly and with confidence" able to do their jobs.
The Park District was indeed aware of such problems and preparing a new set of guidelines at the time, subsequently submitted to select councils for review. Widespread reaction was that the document needs revision lest it seriously damage local oversight and participation in our parks.
Meanwhile, the Kenwood council has continued to consult with the District and local officials and to plan for clean up days, fundraising for park programs, and new elections. The Conference believes park councils should be forums for conflict resolution, not bodies to be controlled.
Our Parks Committee notes these among issues and possible solution highlighted by the Kenwood Park disputes:
1) Too often new, or changes to existing, facilities desired by user groups or park officials are executed with insufficient or no advanced vetting or negotiation with park councils, neighbors, and the wider community. Helpful is insistence by public officials that fait accompli and lack of public input will not stand.
2) Demands on park space are constantly growing throughout the city. First, parks should have framework plans that are living governing documents. Second, there should be careful broad-input review of proposed uses that sequester parks in whole or in part. Planning needs to keep in mind that parks are first and foremost public, open, general use lands. Also, every effort should be made to accommodate, with safety, competing uses (and near neighbors) within parks and among parks of various sizes.
(June 2006 sampler) . Camp: 65 kids enrolled in the children's teaching Garden program of Common Threads, 4 rotating groups focusing on gardening, cooking, movement, and another. Summer camp is full and is going full blast, with several field trips. Money is needed for lunches on field trips.
Baseball is also very active- every field on every night. (The baseball groups are working with the council and others to make the experience good for all and for park upkeep. Volunteers could be used to patrol behind the backstops to make sure all goes smoothly, especially with the kids.) The big baseball tournament is Saturday, July 15.
Julie Lemon is consulting and seeking a walk-through with the new parks Forester on keeping our trees healthy--of special concern are the sycamores, pre-settlement trees.
Progress is being made on the shutting down and patrolling for casual use of the access drive between the park and the school. Little progress is being made with the "safe corridor" between the park and school and the library. The council continues to work with CAPS beat 2124. Vandalism seems to be down in the park and garden and the beat as a whole is quieter.
A plan and request has been submitted for a designated sole picnic area. Members noted we could use more tables. A request is in for the good cans, including those for hot coals. Lemon said that the 4th Ward is no longer giving permits for picnics after there were some noisy and messy ones. Police are alert to the problem; people are urged to use 911 when problems arise.
The group that put on the movie for the park district are now alert to how to position the speakers and give more notice and publicity.
The garden has a decent temporary fence, but we have heard no more on a nice permanent fence. The pony ride in the small playground is broken and there are problems with its support. The park district has worked a lot on the fountain area and its drains--full of sand (and roots?). Members thought the park should have a drought contingency plan.
Members were asked to list items for fundraising or park district requests, that can be winnowed and prioritized:
The Advisory Council met April 26 2006 and reviewed progress and lack of it on many issues, and next steps. Note in coming events, below
Kenwood Park Advisory Council met March 29 at the fieldhouse. About 18 attended including 2 21st District police officers, Robert Steele of parks Community Outreach, the supervisor, and aide to Sen. Kwame Raoul.
Robert Steele gave a general introduction to function and operation of councils, saying that councils must give strong reportage of conditions and advocacy for their park and support the supervisor in building program. Previous members note that the park already has bylaws, records and experience and works with others
Supervisor McCormick described
park programs and plans: After school engages youth in homework and learning
projects as well as sports (much of which is in the school building--the fieldhouse
is tiny). Monday is devoted to teen mentoring and Thursday is hip-hop night.
The Summer Camp will hold 60--registration starts in April. The council expressed commitment to help with scholarships for needy kids. Partnerships have been developed for various sports programs.
McCormick asked for help in growing the garden program and having the garden fenced.
In summer there will be two movies and a concert--the council was invited to have a concession.
The council will make inquiry about putting poor sidewalks on city repair agenda (and thanked the park for lighting improvements); parks will take actions on the after school traffic problem in the park and on park drainage as well as other reported problems.
A varied menu of safety concerns (from personal to traffic) and possible solutions were discussed with police and parks representatives in a spirit of good will and willingness to ensure safety. An improvement in crime statistics in the area was noted. The council was also encouraged to help get the word out, call 911 at the first sign of trouble or suspicion. The council will continue to engage and meet with user groups such as the ball teams and work with other residents, organizations and officials in the vicinity concerning the northeastward corridor.
Members around the table each noted one or more concerns (see above), which were discussed toward solution. Some, of course, have proved difficult for a long time. Two concerns were to make sure the park is user-friendly re: washrooms to the extent possible and the dog ordinance be re-read to see how the park can be more friendly to dogs and their owners without inconvenience or danger to others.
View spring 2009 programs from Feb. 9 online, reg. online Feb 23, In person Feb 28.
Park programs for fall 2008 (visit in www.chicagoparkdistrict.com, find park or park programs). This is a sample. Fieldhouse phone 312 747-6286.
Fun and games for ages 14-18. M,T,W,Th,F 2:30-6 pm. Free. Open to all. Code 93237. 9/22-12/7.
Seasonal Sports for ages 6-12. M,T, W, Th, 6-7:30 pm. Free. Instructor's permission needed. Code 88961. 9/22-12/7.
Park Kids for ages 6-12. M,T,W,Th,F, 2:30-6 pm.
Pumpkin Patch October 25, Saturday, 11 am-2 pm. $5.
Note, Park Usage Events Calendar can be viewed and can added to by those with permission: http://email@example.com&ctz=America/Chicago
In September, 2004, the park received 20+ relief murals created by Shoesmith students. Students spent 6 hours a week over 6 months to create the cobb (adobe-like) tiles depicting park activities such as baseball, basketball (in Shoesmith School), and double dutch.
This park has now been moved into the Central Region of the Chicago Park District.
Kenwood, with its small fieldhouse and its playing fields, is a neighborhood park (adjoining a school) with regional draw especially for kids and teen teams. This requires good will and compromise, including between sports. Kenwood has traditionally been called Farmer's field because it was donated for a park, with restrictions, by a local farmer--facing the park is the oldest remaining house in the neighborhood. Many of the grand and near-grand houses around the park belong to the Kenwood mansion historic landmark district. A block south is the historic Madison Park gated community. The park is near Kenwood Academy but has no connection except that at times the Academy's teams practice at the park. The park has a small staffed fieldhouse, but carries out many of its programs in Shoesmith School. The council was very active 1999 into 2002. At the November 2003 budget hearing, Ald. Preckwinkle called for overhaul of the bathrooms at Kenwood Park, which request has been repeated since.
The park has in the past had neglect, criminal activity, and squatting (gangs to picnickers from outside) and other issues. In 1991, after a meeting at which neighbors discussed basketball noise, drugs and a shooting, persons cut down the basketball poles. All this despite the park adjoining the Kenwood mansion district. The park advisory council was revived and reconstituted in the late 1990s by Kathy Sullivan and many others and launched a successful campaign for park service and upkeep, fieldhouse programs, and especially the new playgrounds and entry feature. The park supervisors were so good they were regularly promoted away.
A local group seeking to honor community activist Lester Dugas received naming of the southeast entry feature for Dugas; a boulder-sculpture is being or has been carved and is to be placed at the feature and a ceremony (held summer 2007).
At the September 2005 South budget hearing, Ald. Preckwinkle cited this park as an example of Central Region neglect of parks north of 51st Street.