Park Issues: Recent or ongoing matters of general concern to park activists and users

A service of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Parks Committee and the HPKCC website, www.hydepark.org. Visit the committee's page. Contact the chairman, Gary Ossewaarde. Help support our work: Join the Conference!

Elm Park to be given to Kimbark Shopping Plaza? See in own page.
Visit our new Rebuilding the Parks and Olympics pages, the Green News, Directory, Calendar , the Recreation and Fitness Directory, and Birding as well as pages of parks for more issues. Shortcut to staff exodus concerns. See also in the Park Budget, Trash Change, Park Fundraising pages. Park Renaming. See budget requests in budget page.

CPD is set to cut many jobs to close huge budget deficit- impact will be serious.

"Equitable distribution" and the 1980s case that put it into the Code.

The 2008 big issue was the proposed park council guidelines. Analysis, coverage below. HPKCC letter to CPD. Jackson Park comments on prop. guidelines. A meeting of councils with the District ended amicably with objected to issues willing to be struck or made more flexible and a joint committee to arrive at or review a new draft (private meeting July 11). The new draft, as viewed by this writer, appears to present few if any problems except more hoops for those handling children and monies.
July 11 the new Councils Oversight joint committee met with Supt. Mitchell and further simplified the document, but leaving possible confusion in the proposed by-laws
. The guidelines have been adopted.

The budget with big looming staff and care cuts coming is key- 2009, 2010, 2011....
Next budget hearing for parks south of 51st- July 21, Wednesday, 6:30, Washington Park exact tba.

Elm Park- council fights concept of turning it into a parking lot, revitalizes the park. See Elm Threatened.

Handling of crowds for 4th of July fireworks and other holidays/ big events is a big headache.

The next issue was Kenwood Park baseball field expansion and organization of the council. There was a special usage committee organized by the alderman and chaired by George Rumsey. See Kenwood Page. A resolution was achieved and the Council has been reactivated with new elections.

Crains' Chicago Business July 212008 carried an article on dilemmas "Jockeying for space in city parks" by Lia Bertagnoli.
Featured were Grant, Lakeshore East, Wicker, dog conflicts in general, Lincoln (Latin School field), and Kenwood Park (details in Kenwood Park.)

And then it was ticketing and arrests for swimming at the Point- and whatever larger meaning that may have. See Promontory Point Park page. October 23, 1 pm City Council holds a hearing on Ald. Hairston's proposed resolution on Point swimming.

Early 2009- how well would new language protect equitable distribution of resources? See for outcome and the story behind the issue since the 1970s.

See page on discussion of a proposed sports activity and training dome in Jackson Park.

Felling of trees in Burnham, perhaps to enhance condo views, shocks. See in Burnham Nat. Sanct. page.

State funding for parks in our area and on the greater south side may be at risk. Speaker Madigan is holding local hearings-- Tuesday, March 25, 6 pm at Kennedy-King Theater, 6301 S. Halsted.

HPKCC Summer 2005 Conference Reporter commentary feature on Parks
From the March 2008 Conference Reporter: Kenwood Park issue, Guidelines, Olympics

Latest: including Washington Park Olympic proposal, other Olympic issues.
Kenwood Park dispute over ball fields.
To new swim ban policy
To Wooded Island habitat and bird history and future.
Whose are the parks?

See Point Latest.

See what Friends of the Parks says.

Another big concern of 2008 was time to time requsets to sequester parts of parks for special uses. One example from a few years ago: Sports Dome page.)

January 1 2008 is effective date for a new state law requiring first aid and resuscitation equipment at outdoor recreational facilities.

Localized problems include crime and loitering in parts of many parks through the area, and such problems as where to place the summer festivals in Washington Park. And there are groups, including permitted, that proceed to tear up the parks.

Park neglect and dowdy look is charged--and indeed only about half the work orders are being completed timely. Staff appears to have been pared to the bone and beyond.

Nichols Park Council discussed a couple years ago with PD management what they considered biggest problems: Communication within the District, insufficient trades staffing, and unsatisfactory performance by the landscape division. Some of this continues to come up such as in 53rd visioning exercises.

Do park rules need better signage and enforcement? . See Safety and Security. Advisory Council meetings report lots of rowdy parties and activities, parks no closed at 11, alcohol and trash, homeless encampments.

Decline of park landscape has been alleged by some. But there are things the District has been able do.,

The 5 regions have been consolidated into 3 . The dividing line between the new South and the Central regions cuts right through Hyde Park! Some councils are complaining. Now they are one- Lakefront is no more, mostly in our area consolidated into the South Region under Liz Millan.

Of big festivals, deteriorating ball fields, dog park proposals and the power of interest or citizen demand. Dog Friendly Areas page.

The 2007 budget is online 2006 saw much increase in funding.
Staff cuts, more deferred capital, and fee and property tax hikes are imposed. There has been vigorous disagreement over equity between areas of the city.

 

- What folks are saying about our parks Claims of neglect, Dyett pool issue;
- Notes on the state of parks as assets and foci in Hyde Park-Kenwood
- HPKCC Parks Committee Reports
- 2005-7 Budget and from recent budget hearings. To current budget issues and outcome page.
- Nichols Park Council in larger area session discusses models for communications and handling work orders with District offices.

Quote of the year, 2003, from the October 1 Hyde Park Herald article on 4 initial options unveiled to the public for new parkland in Burnham Park between 45th and 51st. Maurice Lee:
"Park rooms are high traffic areas with interactive, recreational features...while park links are quieter more naturalistic settings.... The concepts illustrate the trade-offs that have to be made depending on whether ...parkland is more recreational or bucolic."

Quotes of the year 2004,. By Ross Petersen of Jackson Park Council to the Herald re budget park programming cuts:
"These are the essential sorts of services the advisory council believes should be the last that should be touched." And Lois Dobry: "Apparently, budget cuts do not affect certain parts of the city."
"The Park District's 2005 budget is one of the least transparent budgets of any local government." Laurence Msall, president, Civic Federation
"The goal in our effort here is to bring park programming to the people who need it most by making it more accessible to our most vulnerable families." Ald. Hairston.

HPKCC's letter and re-reply of winter, 2008 to Chicago Park District on part of the Kenwood issues is elsewhere in this Park Issues page. THIS MATTER WAS AMIABLY RESOLVED.
Here is the report published in the HPKCC Conference Reporter March 2008.

View from the Parks: 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.

On the Olympics...

The Conference received virtually no response on requests for information on Olympic planning and impact.

In general, not much information on plans to accommodate the Olympics and provide lasting facility legacies camee forth from the Chicago 2016 Committee, and little local planning is being done. Mayor Daley did announce a program of transit and related upgrades apart from Olympic considerations and generally thought needed in any case--and requiring state and federal help. Foundations have set up some small funds to study, with communities, impacts and legacies. But most commentators (and a recent forum at the University on Displacement) point to little local positive economic or development results from recent Olympics. They also see little evidence of detailed and collaborative planning underway in Chicago, but much evidence that some parks and neighborhoods would be unduly affected and left ill-prepared for the Games and their aftermath.

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Proposed Guidelines and By-laws for councils stir controversy (LARGELY RESOLVED)
To HPKCC letter March 26 2008

Reps from several councils met with the District April 4. It appears that most differences can be resolved. A joint committee reviewed and led to further changes and flexibility.

Hyde Park Herald, September 10, 2008, by Crystal Fencke

New PAC guidelines take more relaxed approach

The Chicago Park District (CPD) has retooled the guidelines for Park Advisory Councils (PACs) in tone and scope, in response to vehement reaction to the draft guidelines that were developed earlier this year.

The document was released the week after the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners' meeting, which took place on Aug. 13. At that time, the board received updates from representatives of the PACs, local groups whose role is to "help enhance the parks as important centers of community activity," according to the CPD document. It can be found on the CPD Web site by clicking a link titled "departments," then one titled "legislative" and finally one titled "community affairs."

The draft guidelines, which many found objectionable, were created when CPD General Superintendent Timothy Mitchell and Director of Legal and Community Affairs Timothy King tried to update the 2000 guidelines*. They did this in an effort to try to streamline the process by which individual PACs did their fundraising, said John Paul Jones of Friends of the Parks, the Chicago parks watchdog group that was invited to work on the guidelines with the CPD.

But some of the additions created rancor between the park district and many of the PACs. When JPAC members read the draft document, they were very upset at some of the language used and the legal tone it took. Some PAC members such as Stephanie Franklin of the Nichols Park Advisory Council, characterized it as "confrontational" and "defensive."

Instead of encouraging members to raise funds and help manage them, terms and conditions were introduced that seemingly came out of left field. Anyone who would raise money would be required to undergo a criminal background check. Rather than limiting that condition to those who would work with children, the draft guidelines made it a requirement for all PACs. It made the guidelines less of a guide and more a stringent set of rules designed to make participants think twice about helping to trim rose bushes in the spring or divide perennial plants.

In contrast, the new shortened version strikes any such language. Mitchell developed this one with "his own PAC," said Jones: he had the help of a chosen group made up of PAC members throughout the city.

 

[*actually, they were not aware of the (non-mandatory?) 2000 guidelines at that time, and desire to upgrade came from a variety of concerns and parties.]

Hyde Park Herald, March 19, 2008. By Georgia Geis

JPAC to review guidelines

Jackson Park Advisory Council members along with members from 16 other councils and Friends of the Parks will meet this week to discuss a preliminary draft of the Chicago Park District's new guidelines for advisory councils. The park district has asked for feedback from the working group by March 21.

John Paul Jones of the Friends of the Parks said he thinks the timetable is "premature" considering the controversial nature of the guidelines. "There are some touchy items and we need more time to discuss them," said Jones.

Some of the new regulations that are potentially controversial are restricting councils from fundraising, asking for sign-in sheets for meetings, background checks on potential board members [all members- ed] and restricting membership to one mile of the park [not strictly-ed.].

Jackson Park Advisory Council president Ross Petersen said his initial response was that the drat s written now could have been "taken from the pages of a George Orwell novel." Later Petersen tempered his criticism and said he trusts the park district will listen to feedback.

The park district began revamping the guidelines five months ago, according to Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, spokesperson for the park district. Maxey-Faulkner said the working group of councils was chosen from various geographic areas, various ethnic groups, and various park sizes. "The Chicago Park District wants to ensure that these guidelines are consistent across the board," said Maxey-Faulkner. "We also want to clarify the roles and duties of an advisory council."

Jones questioned the utility of the changes. "We have to ask the advisory councils, 'Does it help you reach your goal?'" said Jones. Maxey-Faulkner said she anticipates the guidelines will be given to the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners in the next two months. Top


Park Guidelines rejected- Advisory Councils criticize rewrite of agreement with park district.

Hyde Park Herald, March 26, 2008. By Georgia Geis

The volunteer groups in Hyde Park that advocate for city parks are objecting to a set of revamped guidelines, saying that they would limit their scope and influence.

The advisory councils for Jackson Park and Nichols Park have vehemently rejected the proposed guidelines that include items such as determining what time the councils can meet, asking for all volunteers to fill out an application that includes a background check, restricting the councils from collecting any dues and designating how close members must live to the park. Ross Petersen, president of the Jackson Park Advisory Council, said he believes the guidelines are "mean-spirited" and "unethical" and plans to have lawyers look at the document. "This is a troubling blow to the right to having a voice in park management and planning," said Petersen.

Timothy King, director of the Department of Legislative and community Affairs for the park district, said the guidelines were being revamped to make the bylaws uniform for all Chicago parks and to clarify any confusion. The document, according to King, was developed as a result of comments from existing councils, park advocates, park patrons and staff members.

"Guidelines need revision because there are a lot of councils out there that call themselves advisory councils and they really aren't, and conversely there are advisory councils that are not receiving the benefits of being a council and working with us," King said.

Longtime Hyde Parker and president of the Nichols Park Advisory Council Stephanie Franklin agrees with Petersen that the guidelines suggested are unacceptable. "We don't think that this document as a whole should be accepted at all," said Franklin. "We decided, as one person said at a recent meeting, if we were to go through line by line and object to various things that would in effect validate the document."

The new council guidelines, which were sent to a select 17 councils for review and comment, could become municipal code as soon as April. The Friends of the Parks, a non-profit park advocacy organization, is urging the park district to include all park advisory councils in the discussion about the proposed guidelines. They have also requested that the guidelines be posted on the park district web site so it can be viewed by everyone.

"We want to insure there is a broader review before this is approved in respect to all the park council leaders throughout the city," said John Paul Jones of Friends of t he Parks. "This will be a municipal code, and for that level of the game we want to make sure that the full rights and responsibility of public disclosure occurs."

The park district has no plans of a broader examination of the guidelines by all councils and has declined to post the document on the website. King said the park district is confident that the 17 councils asked to review the document are representative of all the councils. "the concern with how we chose those advisory councils for comment was diversity. Diversity in ethnicity, in location, diversity in size and infrastructure of the parks," said King.

As the document stands, Jones said it "ties the hands of the advisory councils," and he speculated that t he Olympics could be the sidebar issue spurring the park district to make changes now. "

Overall, unlike the 2000 guidelines, there is not one word in here about what the park district is going to do in exchange," said Franklin. "There is no sense of partnership, of cooperation -- and certainly not mutual respect." Top


Park District proposals may rein in its volunteers

Chicago Tribune, March 27, 2008. By Noreen Ahmed-Ullah

For more than 20 years, park volunteers have planted shrubs and weeded flower beds in the city's more than 500 parks. They've shown up at park meetings and advised officials on how to fine-tune athletic programs and plan park improvements.

But volunteering may not be that simple anymore. Proposed park guidelines would require volunteers to submit to background checks, supply three non-family references and agree to not grant media interviews. And volunteers who make up the city's nearly 100 park advisory councils--created in the early 1980s to draw community input in part because of a federal lawsuit settlement--would now have to live in Chicago.

Advisory council members, who recruit volunteers for everything from planting to park cleanup days, say if adopted, the proposed rules will discourage people from getting involved. "We volunteer because we value the park," said Stephanie Franklin, president of the Nichol Park Advisory Council in Hyde Park. This idea of filling out a form to be a volunteer stuns me. It's insulting."

Advisory council members say the new guidelines may be an effort by the Park District to restrict park advocates' voices, especially with regard to the city's bid for the 2016 Olympic venues. Most Olympic venues will be in the city's ark, and a least one park advisory council has voted to oppose plans to put Olympic field hockey stadiums in its park.

"That's one of the reasons eyebrows have gone up," Jackson Park Advisory Council President Ross Petersen said. "It's very suspicious coming on the heels of our vote that found the Olympic proposal was ill-advised and would conflict with sensitive nature areas in Jackson Park. "

Park advocates also point to advisory councils' opposition to other projects, such as the Lincoln Park Advisory Council speaking out against the Latin School's proposal to bui9ld an athletic field in Lincoln Park, and the Kenwood Park Advisory Council's effort to prevent the expansion of a baseball field. In the case of Kenwood Park, advisory council members were told their group was not recognized. "No one had a record of the advisory council even existing," parks Supt. Tim Mitchell.

Mitchell said the agency began working on the guidelines four years ago in part to ensure volunteer advisory councils are registered with the Park District. At the time, Friends of the Parks, which helped form some groups in 1980, made suggestions. But background checks, volunteer forms and guidelines on codes of conduct weren't part of that discussion, said Friends president Erma Tranter.

Park officials said they want uniformity among the advisory groups. Some collect $10 annual dues. Some don't. Some have term limits for officers. Others don't. The volunteer groups recently have taken a greater role in fundraising. With the Park District increasingly dependent on outside funding for capital improvements, the advisory councils have stepped in, convincing state and local elected officials to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars. "We want to make sure the funds are being used for what they're stated," said Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a Park District spokeswoman.

Grant Park Conservancy President Bob O'Neill said he understands the need to hold advisory councils accountable, but he worries about the Park District's proposed requirement that council meetings be announced two weeks in advance. Another restriction raising concern is membership being limited to one park advisory group.

Park advisers also wonder why the Park District is seeking accountability from them, yet failing to make any commitments that funds they raise will go toward designated projects.

Park officials said the proposals are a draft. They plan to meet with representatives of some advisory councils April 4. Mitchell said the proposed guidelines will be modified--the background checks will probably be required only of volunteers who come in contact with children or of advisory council members who have access to funds. But Mitchell is adamant about keeping a residency requirement.

That may be a problem for some on the Jackson Park Advisory Council. Many6 have left the Hyde Park neighborhood but remain active in the park.

Franklin said she wonders how she'll be able to pay for mailings and other basic costs without collecting dues. She said she hopes the Park District will discard some of the more intrusive rules. "There would be no volunteers," she said. "We would simply not be abel to comply with these guideline. It would continue to be an advisory council but [the Park District] wouldn't recognize it. Top

 

Crains Chicago Business GotAOpinion its hard. dated March 26

ChicagoBusiness.com, (http://www.ChicagoBusiness.com) the nation's premier local
business news and information Web site.

Got an opinion? Park District has rules for you
From the Crains' Chicago Business Newsroom
March 26 14:36:00, 2008
-----
(Crains') — So, your little community group wants to put its two cents in at the
local park?


You and each of your buddies will have to submit to a criminal background check
— and fill out a detailed application that includes work and evening phone
numbers for three non-family personal references.


Any money you raise for that new swing set must be approved in advance by the
Chicago Park District, which retains the right to spend the money on something
besides swings.


And forget about publicity. All interviews with TV, newspaper or radio reporters
are strictly prohibited.


If you have an opinion on this proposed change, let us know. Use our new
comments feature to the right.


One other thing. Don’t worry your little heads about writing bylaws for your
organization to determine when you meet, elect officers and so forth. The
district has done it for you.


Yes, folks, all of that and more is included in proposed new rules for citizen
advisory councils at Lincoln Park, Warren Park, Jackson Park and dozens of other
Chicago Park District facilities scattered around town. While district brass
insists the proposed rules are just a draft and still subject to revision,
you’ve got to wonder what they were thinking in even proposing such blather —
just for the opportunity to give advice that the district surely will reject if
it disagrees.


Makes you wonder if City Hall isn’t trying to rein in any potential opposition
as it gets set to scatter 2016 Olympics venues on parks throughout the central
area of the city, as some advisory council leaders darkly suggest.


Officially, the proposed rules are the work of Tim King, the district’s director
of legislative and community affairs. An attorney by trade, Mr. King concedes
that the proposed rules may have “a lawyerly tint” to them, but they are a
well-intended effort to bring order to a system in which some councils have
raised $100,000 or more to improve their local parks.


Indeed, money — which for good reason is known as the root of all evil —
definitely is behind what’s going on.


According to Mr. King, the relationship between the district and its community
partners “has evolved” since 2000, when then-parks General Superintendent David
Doig issued guidelines stressing that each “independent” council was “encouraged
to create and adopt its own bylaws and specific operating procedures.”


Neighborhoods that want to get their capital project bumped up the priority list
need to get involved in fundraising, since the district doesn’t want to raise
taxes high enough to pay for everything that’s needed. That means relying on the
councils, some of which have misused dues income for personal purposes and
devolved into personal duchies, Mr. King says.


Some park insiders say there’s a bit of truth to that. But the overall sentiment
of those I spoke with is that the draft rules are way over the top.


“This will drastically reduce public involvement in the parks,” says Lincoln
Park Advisory Council President Jill Niland. “This seems designed for an
adversarial relationship.”


“Perhaps I’m paranoid, but did our position in opposing the Olympics spark
this?” asks Jackson Park Advisory Council President Ross Peterson, whose group
opposes Mayor Richard M. Daley’s plan to hold Olympic field hockey in Jackson
Park. The proposed no-interviews rule conflicts with the council’s watch-dog
function, he adds.


“There’s two sides to this,” says Grant Park Advisory Council President Bob
O’Neill. But the proposed rules are “overly restrictive,” he continues, pointing
to one clause requiring two weeks’ public notice of any council meeting,
something he says would stop it from responding quickly to an urgent situation.


Mr. King has an explanation for each of these items. For instance, he says
background checks may be needed because the district doesn’t want pedophiles in
field houses and embezzlers in charge of fundraising.


Fair enough. But most council members don’t have routine contact with park kids.
They go to a monthly meeting in a place where anyone can walk in off the street.
If embezzlement is a problem, perhaps council treasurers could be bonded. But
asking every person who wants to join a council to the let bureaucrats rifle
through their personal life is overkill.


Similarly, the new rules won’t regulate the Grant Park Conservancy, a
fundraising group that also is headed by Mr. O’Neill and which pays him about
$75,000 a year to be its full-time director. But the rules would ban councils
from collecting even nominal dues income for, say, a Web site.


In fairness to the district, I heard about the proposed rules because it sent
copies to some councils, asking for their comment. Since the district wants
comment, here’s mine: Go back to the drawing board and try again. And district
officials can look at my police background report when I get to look at theirs.
Top

Ben Joravsky of Chicago Reader April 3 says It's All About the Olympics

The last time a Park District advisory council weighed in on the Olympics, it didn't come down on the side Mayor daley wanted. That was back in July, when the Jackson Park Advisory Council passed a resolution against the city's proposal to build a temporary 20,000-seat field hockey arena in the south lakefront park, part of its bid for the 2016 Olympics.

Well, this oughta teach 'em a lesson: In February Park District superintendent Tim Mitchell introduced a drafted of revised guidelines that would impose stiff new condition for membership in local park advisory councils, including criminal background checks. They've been sent to several advisory councils for review, but the Park District itself has the final decision.

Tim King, the Park District's officer who drafted the guidelines, told Crains' Chicago Business that the background checks are intended to keep pedophiles out of field houses (except of course the ones who can just walk in off the street) and embezzlers away from the councils' books (though the Park District doesn't fund the councils). Park District spokesman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner adds that the measure wasn't prompted by specific incidents but is meant to be preventive.

I think there's a more likely explanation. The Park District is essentially an extension of City Hall. The mayor appoints its whole board, and Mitchell was once his deputy chief of staff. Wining and hosting the games is contingent on Park District support. The events will be held on Park District property and will be paid for in part by Park District funds. Mitchell and other Park District leaders are the ones who'll take the heat for interrupting regular park activities--softball, soccer, football, tennis leagues-- to get the facilities ready. As one former board member recently told me, "It's all about the Olympics, my friend."

Historically the park advisory councils have had little clout. They were started in the 80s by Friends of the Parks to provide community oversight, but though the district touts their involvement it also limits it to recommendations and suggestions. There are close to 100 in the city currently (for more than 550 parks), and how active they are varies, with some vigorously raising funds for park improvements and others meeting erratically. All you have to do to join on i show up and fill out an application expressing interest. Still, once you're in, you can yell, scream, and turn blue in the face without ever stopping Mitchell from doing whatever the mayor has ordered.

But the advisory councils have a window of influence right now--and it closes next year, when the International Olympic Committee announces the host of t he 2016 summer games. While the councils can't single-handedly upset Chicago's bid, they can undercut the appearance of support Daley has so carefully orchestrated, and the mayor takes that threat seriously: When members of he U/S. Olympic Committee visited Washington Park last year, Daley deviated from plans and kept them on a bus rather than let them mingle with anti-police-brutality activists who'd come out to get their attention. (The official line was that the USOC folks stayed on the bus because there was snow on the ground.)

Currently the Park District park advisory council guidelines, last revised in 2000, are loose. There are no restrictions on membership and no term limits. The councils are encouraged to form their own bylaws, and they're free to impose dues or not. The new guidelines would change al of that. The revised membership application would require not only a criminal background check but three references. "The decision of the Park District to accept or reject" applications is final, it notes, and volunteers "may be terminated at any time with or without cause." The terms and conditions go on to prohibit volunteers from media contact concerning the Park District and to bar them from passing on any information concerning the district without written authorization.

Dues are also prohibited, but fund-raising is strongly encouraged--though the Park District would reserve control over how any money is spent. it has also drafted universal bylaws that include term limits of two years for all officers. Members would be required to live within a certain distance (yet to be determined) of the park or have and "interest in or use of" it, such as participating in a Park District program or having a child who does.

Jill Niland, president of the Lincoln Park Advisory Council, calls the proposed conditions "preemptive strikes" designed to make advisory groups less likely to rebel against its policies. Ross Petersen, president of Jackson Park Advisory Council, agrees: "They're trying to crate an atmosphere to discourage any type of whistle-blowing," he says. I have to think our opposition to the Olympics has something to do with this."

When they passed their resolution in July, Petersen and other Jackson Park Advisory Council members were concerned about rumors that construction of the temporary field hockey arena could tie up the park for several years. The resolution made them the only park advisory council to go on record against bringing the Olympics to town.

The city responded by sending a slew of top officials to the council's September meeting. Chicago 2016 vice chair Valerie Jarrett acknowledged to the group that the games would have a local impact but emphasized the possibility of lasting improvement to the park. Planning commissioner Arnold Randall went so far as to promise that the park would be affected for no more than ten months. Since the Olympic games take place in August and the Paralympics in September, that means construction would start in January and the arena would b down by october--a preposterous promise give the cost overruns and delays associated with most major projects in Chicago. It's not even likely that Olympic officials would allow Chicago to begin building so close to the start of the games, when a harsh winter could prevent the project from being finished in time. But the city will say whatever it has to say to maintain the appearance of widespread public support.

The next big fight looks to be in Lincoln Park, where resident are already up in arms over a sweetheart deal in which the Park District gave Latin School exclusive prime-time use of a new soccer field the private school built on public land near the zoo. Just wait till they learn what t he city has in store for the field west of the bird sanctuary near the Waveland Clock Tower: a 10,000-seat tennis arena. In January Olympic Committee officials gave a presentation to the Lincoln Park Advisory Council, drawing a chorus of critical questions and concerns. The committee promised to return with more specifics. But it's one thing to ask for a council's advice; it's another thing to follow it.

Maxey-Faulkner says the Olympics has nothing to do with the proposed guidelines. In fact, she says, advocates like Friends of the Parks got the ball rolling four years ago by asking that the advisory council guidelines be rewritten. Furthermore, she emphasizes, the proposed guidelines are not by any means final. "This is a draft," she says. "We're listening to what people have to say."

On Friday, April 4, Park District officials will meet with select park advisory councils to discuss the new proposed guidelines; we'll se how their input is heeded.

Erma Tranter, president of Friends of the Parks, says that two years ago the Park District came to her asking for help in reworking the guidelines. The issue at the time was advisory councils that were failing to meet regularly. She says the new draft was a surprise to her, and that Friends of the Parks does not endorse the revised version: "The guidelines from 2000 say everything that needs to be said," she says. "Why wouldn't you just stick with those?"

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HPCCC Letter to Chicago Park District, March 26, 2008 related to the guidelines and park councils.

Timothy J. Mitchell, General Superintendent and CEO and
Timothy M. King, Legislative and Community Affairs
Chicago Park District
541 N. Fairbanks
Chicago, IL 60611

Dear Mr. Mitchell and Mr. King:

Thank you for your reply of March 6, 2008, to our letter of February 19. We were surprised to learn that you have been seeking comments and suggestions on revision of the 2000 Guidelines and are nearly ready to adopt a final document. The role of the Conference is to promote the good of parks in collaboration with councils, staff, and elected officials and to bring together community groups and organizations such as park councils to share their experiences and strengths. While we encourage parties such as park councils to be open and to function well and collaboratively, we do not recommend or support conformity to particular rules of internal operation.

You will recall that our letter was written in response to an ongoing park council issue in our area. We asked that the Park District have and apply, consistently and fairly, an internal policy for such circumstances. We were not thinking of a new set of guidelines, and certainly not a code for every procedure, such as may be suggested by the enumeration in your letter. Because we agree with you that PACs are separate entities, we are concerned that this kind of micromanagement could make it hard for councils to be formed and long-lasting and would dampen resident work and support for their parks. Perusal of your proposed document online confirms our concerns that this may be a turn for the worse. We hope and expect that all the councils, not just a few, as well as relevant stakeholder groups, will be given ample time to review and comment.

We believe that any guidelines should be guiding recommendations and should build and clarify a reciprocal partnership of collaboration. Guidelines need to include the Park District’s support for councils, such as a structure of communication and structure of full consultation in advance on projects and other park changes. While councils cannot set park policy, they are elected, and ideally representative of the community.

We stated that councils representing parks of different sizes, reach of constituency, or circumstances need room to adapt operations to their needs, not just needs of the Park District. Councils ebb and flow as issues and opportunities gain community attention. CPD Policy needs to make sure the varied councils can function and can operate in an open manner, and that policies do not themselves block communication or become an occasion for abuse or advantage within councils, by third parties, or staff within the District. We suggest that the District internally should have its own clear internal policy for what happens when there is a challenge to a council, allegation of abuses by any party, or unresolved disputes, with possibly a well-thought-out review body that could include rotating membership from various councils.

We should be in agreement on some important parameters for councils:

· They should be first and foremost a way for residents to come together freely for the good of their parks through an independent body,
· They need mutual open communication with and respect for and from park authorities local and citywide,
· They be need to be open to all interested parties, not a restricted set of constituents, and be confident that views and requests will receive an open hearing and response,
· Leadership needs to be democratically elected and act in that spirit,
· They need to meet openly and frequently and operate according to basic but reasonable, performable, flexible guidelines.

Our expectation is that the District will not enact policies that skew who may be member or officer in a council or inhibit or kill the councils and their ability to attract volunteers and raise appropriate funds for park needs. Rather, we hope that the District, through a period of input, will arrive at a document that promotes trust, reciprocal partnership, and fair dealing.

Sincerely,


George W. Rumsey
President

Gary M. Ossewaarde
Vice President and Parks Chair
Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference


Jackson Park Advisory Council comments on the guidelines, as sent to Chicago Park District March 2008.


Jackson Park Advisory Council
Ross Petersen, President; Fran Vandervoort, Vice President; Gary Ossewaarde, Secretary;
Dwight Powell, Treasurer; Geneva Calloway, Vernita Jones, and Louise McCurry, At-Large;
Ross Petersen & Fran Vandervoort Nature Committee

Ross Petersen, 1508 N. Spaulding, Chicago, IL 60651, 773 486-0505
Gary Ossewaarde, 5528 S. Hyde Park Blvd., #606, Chicago, IL 60637, 773 947-9541
hpkcc@aol.com. Website: www.hydepark.org/parks/jpac.html
Jackson Park comments on the Chicago Park District proposed 2008 Guidelines and By-laws for Park Advisory Council
Preparers: Gary Ossewaarde, Ross Petersen, Fran Vandervoort

March 27, 2008

Mr. Erik Varela
Mr. Timothy M. King
Chicago Park District
541 N. Fairbanks
Chicago, IL 60611

Dear Sirs:

Our general conclusion is that the revised guidelines are intrusive, burdensome, do not invigorate a spirit of productive partnership and consultation, will hinder recruitment of members and sound, long-term council operation, and restrict the ability of residents to discover and seek the best for their parks through their own recognized body. The process should be started over, using first the current guidelines and providing broad conversation.

General objections:

Process
1. Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC) was not made aware that the Chicago Park District (CPD) was undertaking revision or replacement of the Guidelines issued and approved in 2000 and soliciting community opinion thereon.
We would like to have known, and we ask now, the reasons or problems you believe require a new document.
Why are guidelines now made mandatory? And why the haste now?
Have you explored other ways that may be available to address specific needs?
While we, or the CPD may not find everything in the current guidelines ideal, the 2000 Guidelines have worked satisfactorily for eight years and helped solidify a productive partnership between JPAC (and indeed other PACs), communities, and the CPD.
2. Notification and opportunity to comment were inadequate and inappropriate. Our packet, for one, was misaddressed even though we make every effort to update re: our officers, contacts, and addresses and did not contain “Volunteer staff Member Terms and Conditions.”

Guidelines, especially if they are to be mandatory in language and application, are of great importance to all councils. They need to be shared with all the councils, not a selected few, as well as shared with local elected officials and relevant “park patrons and public interest groups”. There must be sufficient time for adequate review and feedback—much more than the three weeks (practically about one) provided. More review is necessary to create a sound document, whether that turns out to be revision of the present guidelines or a new document.

Foundation and Principles of the relationship between the CPD and PACs is not embodied in the new guidelines.
The park councils grew out of suits in federal court alleging that CPD was misallocating its funds and failing to spend in some parks and sections of the city. The litigation was settled over a quarter century ago by a “consent decree” in federal court. Since the resultant formation of councils, a productive partnership of volunteer work, expanded program, improved maintenance, new or improved facilities, conflict resolution, and general parks advocacy has steadily grown between CPD and the councils and their communities. This spirit of partnership was expressed repeatedly in the 2000 guidelines.

The proposed guidelines do not encourage or express a spirit of partnership, and reciprocity.
Councils are there called entities independent of CPD, but the guidelines
1) Contradict this in specifying and controlling every aspect of council by-laws, governance, and operation. This is top-down micromanagement of democratically elected advisory bodies, ignoring that one size does not fit all parks, whose councils expand and contract depending on the issues. The guidelines have too much “required of every council” and are full of inhibitions to resident participation in park councils—which often draw their communities together—All this is very different from the current 2000 guidelines—why?
2) The new guidelines state duties of councils but no reciprocal CPD obligation or accountability to councils (or parks or their communities). The CPD duties most related to councils are consultation and fair notification and communication. For example, in the Jackson Park Framework Plan of 1999-2000, approved by the Parks Board and City Council, there was agreement to not make major changes or implement proposals before bringing them to the council. Such obligation, accountability, and structure of communication are not codified in this document.

Finally, certain requirements of members and officers (for example background checks) are offensive and, along with some of the by-laws provisions, such as quorum and term limits, are destructive, prohibitive or burdensome to forming councils and keeping them going.
Specific criticisms and queries

1. Formation. Paragraph 3 takes a weakened and vague tone in stating what councils do (“recommendations and suggestions”) while specifying in a condescending way the obvious things PACs do not do. Note, however, that many councils do set up and run programs.

2. P. 2, Guidelines. In general, provisions are far too specific and some conflict with By-laws provisions. Example- Part II- Initial Meeting and P. 3, Part III, Policy-1. It is too much to ask all prospective members to sign a Volunteer Application.
Councils should express local control, and guidelines should do just as the U.S. Constitution positions itself re: states—guarantee open, fair, transparent elections, meetings, and operations.

3. P. 2, Part II-5. We reject a two-year term of office (as specified later- 1 two-year term) as a curb on democracy and likely to lead to dissolution of councils. Also, (6) election provisions are ambiguous between annually and two-years. Why should dates of election be specified by CPD?

4. P. 2. Part II. The binder provision should be re-thought. These have been abused at other parks. The councils are acknowledged in the document to be independent entities.

5. P. 2, Part III, Policy. 1. We reject submitting to background check. This should only apply to those working with children and possibly park equipment. Councils we know hold meetings at times when children are not in the fieldhouse or meet in a separate section. We reject on similar grounds signing the volunteer application.

6. P.3, Part III, Policy-5. No member or officer (It’s ambiguous here which is meant) should be required to disclose serving as an officer or staff in any other organization.

7. P. 3, Part III, Policy-6. Require meeting at least quarterly—this would help with dormant or non-meeting councils.

8 P. 3, Part III, Policy-8. The Code of Conduct is condescending and unnecessary.

9 P. 3, Part III, Policy-9. Membership dues not permitted. Councils (“independent entities”) raising money for general council business is none of the CPD’s business, especially if encouraging them to become 503s or equivalent. –If we are required to notify members of meetings, shouldn't we be permitted to raise enough money to pay the postage? Certain requirements for proper management and transparency may be necessary (general and in council amended by-laws?) We suggest that what is needed here is provision that no dues, contributions or fees may be required for membership, voting, or participation.

10 P. 5, D. Donations, Fundraising. These provisions—and current procedures—need a careful review and could perhaps be considered apart from the rest of the guidelines and inserted later. Some of those proposed seem burdensome, or actually stop donations or in-kinds, especially those concerning instruments of agreement with third parties and access to financial records.

11. Volunteer Application. We reject members and officers signing the Volunteer Application. This should apply to those doing volunteer projects. Particularly offensive re: members are poor definition of “crime,” disclosure of pending prosecutions, requirement of references, implication that council membership is “at will.”

12. By-laws. It is unclear whether all provisions of these by-laws are applicable regardless of any amendments. We prefer “suggested” or “recommended.” It would be better to consider these the initial by-laws of new councils until amended and inform existing councils what kinds of provisions need to be in their by-laws.

13. Bylaws, P. 1, Article III Section 1. We object to the requirement to complete and sign Volunteer Applications and abide by the Code of Conduct. Also, requirement of City residency creates problems because several councils including JPAC include persons considered members who have made voluntary contributions and receive newsletters. Restricting membership (or voting) in an independent body, especially a 503 under state law, seems legally questionable unless the organization voluntarily includes that in their by-laws.
Council membership provisions should follow the open public meeting provision and be open to all interested residents.

14. By-laws, P. 1, Article III, Sec. 2. Provision that a member “have an interest in the park such as (a) he/she must be currently registered in a park program, and/or (b) have a child currently registered in a park program and/or (c) participate in a league or organization that uses the facilities at the park, and/or [(d)] live within a ____ mile radius of the park” is discriminatory and violates the principle that councils are open to any resident. Provision (c) discriminates in giving persons in a user league or organization unfair advantage cf those outside of a distance radius.

15. By-laws, P. 1, Article III, Sec. 2. "Living within a (certain) radius" is both onerous and totally unrealistic, especially for regional and citywide parks such as Jackson.

16. By-laws, P. 1, Article III, Sec. 3. Remove 2nd sentence (background check).

17. By-laws, P. 2, Article IV, 1, Secretary. Remove provision for keeping a copy of all records in the park. Such records have been abused in parks, and a council is an independent body. It would be reasonable for councils to have to show certain documents that relate directly to parks or CPD, such as fundraising financials or proof that a resolution or action was passed with a quorum of valid members.

18. By-laws, P. 2, Article IV, Sec. 2. We reject term limits as undemocratic and an unworkable elimination of talent.

19. By-laws, P. 2, Article IV, Sec. 4, par. 2. We oppose a set time in the year for elections. Par. 4 should be amended to provide that a representative of the park district be present or have been given every opportunity and notice to be present.

20. By-laws, P. 3, Article V, Sec. 2. The idea a quorum being a “majority of members" is totally unrealistic. It could be a quorum of board members, a percentage, or a set number, as determined in each council’s by-laws. A minimum quorum, such as the 4 specified in formation of a council, could be given as the minimum quorum.

21. By-laws, P. 3, Article V, Sec. 3. Park District employees should not have a vote at all, and not as tie-breakers in elections.

22. By-laws, P. 3, Article V, Sec. 4. Meeting times should be specified as weeknights between 6 and 9 pm or Saturdays 9 am and 1 pm.

23. By-laws, P. 4, Article VII. The whole idea of a Complaint Review Committee is new and not set up, and should not be specified in council by-laws. Where conflicts affect park facilities or programs, CPD may want to set up a procedure, which should be fully vetted before implementation.

23. By-laws, P. 4, Article IX. Requiring a 2/3 vote of all PAC members for amendments looks unrealistic, even as to notification, and may encourage restrictive membership practices to get amendments passed. Organizations have a variety of mechanisms to avoid these problems.

24. We ask for deletion of the Code of Conduct, Volunteer Application and associated Terms and Conditions, and Capital Partnership Pledge (which discriminates as not equally possible among parks and neighborhoods, creates too many hurdles to third party partnerships, and may entail legal obligations.).
Financial management requirements may need alternative procedures for small parks and councils and in any case need further discussion.
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Herald editorial, April 2, 2008

Park District overreaches with new guidelines

They remove invasive plants in Jackson Park. They create wildflower gardens in Nichols Park. They plant trees in Washington Park. They must be stopped.

Incredibly, this appears to be the attitude of the Chicago Park District regarding park volunteers based on a new set of guidelines recently circulated to a handful of Park Advisory Councils (PAC). The rules include regulations affecting all volunteers in the parks. The group of PACs, which includes the Jackson Park Advisory Council, are being asked to comment on the guidelines before they are formally approved and implemented. The rules have been circulated throughout Hyde Park, and the public comment is a resounding "no!"

The guidelines, once put into place, would be mandatory, prompting Nichols Park Advisory Council member Stephanie Franklin to rightly ask, "Who ever heard of mandatory guidelines?" Requirements include a background check, references and an odd agreement to avoid all contact with the press that has some advisory council members connecting these rules with the vocal opposition of the Jackson Park Advisory Council to a proposed field hockey site in the park as part of the 2016 Chicago Olympics.

The park district claims it is just creating a uniform set of rules so all PACs are treated the same, but these rules simply go too far. There can be no doubt these guidelines would have an immediate and chilling effect on volunteer work in the parks. Who is going to have their background checked for criminal activity in order to plant a tee? How does one connect with the other?

The park district is, in effect, cutting off the community from meaningful participation in park management and development. In a city with ever-dwindling resources, this kind of bureaucratic powergrabbing must be denounced and rejected. The parks are here for the enjoyment of citizens. The employees of the Chicago Park District are merely public servants and should not interfere with the civic activity of the public in the parks.

There are practical problems as well. The park district wants to control every Park Advisory Council in the city--represented by thousands of people--through a process of regulation that would require an entire department checking backgrounds, calling references, overseeing budgets and engaged in other time-wasting measures. This document foists park district-written bylaws on the councils, dictates the times and places they can meet, forbids dues, and claims control over any money raised for the parks.

The park district must end its efforts to force this document down park advisory council members' throats. If a new set of guidelines is needed, what's needed is an open process of dialogue that begins with the involvement of all park advisory councils from the beginning--instead of a half hearted effort at allowing input by a hand-picked few at the end.

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Equitable distribution rewritten in CPD Code

At the end of 2009, it was learned that CPD was updating its Code including that dealing with equitable distribution of resources (Chapter 13) without at that time it being known whether or what the replacement language might be. This chapter was put in at conclusion of court monitoring an d remedial spending following a federal consent decree of the 1980s. In late January 2009 alternate drafts were being exchanged between CPD and Friends of the Parks that all hoped would be satisfactory and guarantee this important non-discriminatory practice in a positive way. Top

From Herald January 21 article by Crystal Fencke:

..Finally, JPAC is awaiting details about the Chicago Park District's plan to repeal a significant code- Chapter XIII: Distribution of Services and Facilities. Adopted in 1989 after the U.S. Justice Dept's six-year enforced consent decree, the Board of Commissioners adopted it into the code to insure it spent tax dollars equitably among th city's parks and maintained transparency in reporting capital dollars, according to a document from Friends of the Parks. Parks advocates are concerned that the rules' elimination risks a return to disparities in park funding that plagued the city in the past. This will be discussed at an upcoming meeting on Jan. 28 in the Board Room on the Eighth Floor of the Administration Building, 541 N. Fairbanks Court.

Here is the final language, as on CPD website and given full Friends of the Parks support.

CHAPTER XIII. DISTRIBUTIION OF SERVICES AND FACILITIES

SECTION A. BASIS FOR DISTRIBUTION

1. The Chicago Park District shall distribute it resources, services and facilities, in a fair and equitable manner throughout the District. Furthermore, the Park District shall distribute funds for all its activities, including city-wide and specialized facility construction or improvement, land acquisition and other construction in a manner which does not discriminate on the basis of race or national origin as between the community areas of the city.

2. During the annual public budget hearing the Park District will publish an annual and multiple year capital improvement plan. The capital improvement plan will be based, in part on needs assessment and engineering data as well as public commentary. Preceding the presentation of the capital improvement plan, the Chicago Park District will hold a minimum of 10 community meetings to solicit public comment connected with the development of the capital improvement plan.

SECTION B. THE IMPLEMENTATION COMMITTEE

An Implementation Committee is hereby established which committee shall have the responsibility and duty to monitor the manner in which services and facilities are distributed throughout the Park District. The Committee shall include the General Superintendent, who will act as chairperson, and various Park District staff designated by the General Superintendent, three members of the general public and one member of the Board. The three members of the general public and the member from the Board shall be nominated to the committee by the President subject to approval of the Board for a term of office for one year or until their successors have been appointed. Once every calendar year, the General Superintendent shall provide to the Board a summary of the activities of the Implementation Committee.

Chicago Park District to preserve equitable spending policy, rejects change. Herald, February 4, 2009. by Crystal Fencke

Capital resource spending among parks across the city will be distributed equally [note- commitment is to "equitably"], the Chicago Park District (CPD) Board of Commissioners announced Wednesday, Jan. 28, in an open meeting at 541 N. Fairbanks Ct. that drew neighborhood park advocates. The Chicago Park District Code that regulates distribution of services and facilities, known as Chapter XIII, will not be struck from the books as was the initial intent in December, 2008, according to Friends of the Parks (FOTP).

"We don't think (Chapter XIII) should be fully repealed," said Ross Petersen of the Jackson Park Advisory Council said. "that's why JPAC exists."

In a response FOTP, a watchdog group, the CPD amended language in the code to reflect a deeper commitment to parity throughout the system. Equal capital resource spending among the neighborhood parks will clearly be part of CPC regulations, and it will be easily viewed on its Web site. Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, director of communications for the CPD, said in an e-mail that the code is reviewed to determine what rules or regulations require updating and revising. Revisions presented at the meeting Wednesday were the first part of that, she said.

"The proposed code revisions were posted online for public discussion and comment," according to document sent by Maxey-Faulkner. The legal staff had recommended the elimination of Chapter XIII as a matter of law because the federal consent decree had been vacated over 15 years ago, and was no longer relevant, it said.

Chapter XIII was written into COD code more than 20 years ago in response to a civil rights lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the CPD alleging discriminatory allotment of programs and facilities. This was during the tenure of Park District general superintendent Edmund Kelly. According to the Chicago Reporter, in 1979 the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Inc. sued the Park District, using the findings of that publication and a subsequent Chicago Sun-Times series on racial favoritism within the CPD. in 1980, the Reporter tracked the use of federal funds earmarked for low-income neighborhoods and found that 69 of the 117 projects went to higher-income areas.

Legal action went as far as the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed suit in 1982. According to an article in the New York Times dated Dec. 1, 1982, the suit charged that for years the CPD had favored parks in white neighborhoods to the detriment of those in Black and Hispanic areas. "Among the complaints are that parks in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods have fewer indoor facilities, such as field houses, craft shops and senior citizens' centers; offer fewer outdoor facilities, including ice skating rinks, tennis courts and day camps; have fewer instructional programs, such as arts, crafts and drama; and spend less money on recreational personnel, maintenance an capital improvement," reads the article. Park advisory councils popped up throughout the city as part of the struggle for resource equity. The park advisory councils were created to ensure a citizen voice in parks and recreational matters.

Through 1986 to 1989, the Justice Department imposed a consent decree to restore the imbalance. In addition, a "progressive" Park District Board of Commissioners was formed with architect Walter Netsch as its president, said Erma Tranter, of FOTP. "The whole atmosphere changed," Tranter remembered.

Parks advocates have been working since early 2008 to ensure parity in capital spending for park services and that there is "transparency," said Tranter at the meeting at the CPD offices. FOTP is pleased that the District has approved measures its group recommended "They did agree to include most of what we shared," said John Paul Jones, of FOTP.

Another idea from FOTP is the formation of a "code review committee" to be comprised of community members, probably those already serving on local park advisory boards. This will be part of the CPD's annual plan and how it will ensure equity in public spending, said Jones.

Cecilia Butler, president fo the Washington Park Advisory Council, said parks had benefited from the rule. "The park district across the board has improved," she said. "All parks are up to a certain standard."

"This is a good season for park advocates as we move toward the bid application for the Olympics and our assurances that there will be some level of fairness in decision making.," said Jones.

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See Olympics pages.

DEL.

 

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Other issues

 

New Swim Ban policy- what it is, what it may mean

Visit Swim Ban page in Jackson Park. The 63rd St. beach watershed will be fully studied by EPA, IDPH and the Park district.


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Many groups are seeking to keep Dyett Po0l open more for the community.

 

 

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Parks are a strong structural component—anchors, really, in HPK, both as a set of physical assets spread through the neighborhood and as centers for many activities bringing residents, groups, and organizations of dozens of types--social assets--together. While parks can lead to clashes or attract undesired loitering or actions, they are generally a source of cohesion and, as draws and significant parts of the "public way" and "public forum", where diverse people are half-hazardly thrown together or consciously meet for activities or relaxation. Promoting current and enhancing new ways and facilities for parks to be effective anchors is the stated goal of [former] Park District Board President Maria N. Saldana.

Hyde Park is surrounded on three sides by an open land greensward of large, historic Olmsted and Caldwell parks and also has many mid-sized and small parks. Subtracting the big parks, the parkland space ratio and park to population ratio are not relatively high, and no land remains for more parks between 47th-60th and Cottage to the lake, leaving a fair proportion of population and kids living more than the ideal 3 blocks from a park--especially a park with multiple opportunities.

The parks are generally healthy except that maintenance is difficult on a lean budget and problematic outsourcing contracts, the Park District is often poor at informing of and involving the community in changes, and there is a problem with unwanted activity and congregation/activity in all sizes of parks, although poorly-designed and hemmed-in vest pocket parks more consistently have problems. Much discussion is given to whether the problem is amenable to thoughtful design or rather to policing and eyes/people in the park. So far, we have not lost parkland as a way of solving the people problem or to developer or institutional encroachment. Hyde Parkers value and zealously guard their parks and open space and actively volunteer and help fund special projects in parks.

A new structural concern is the drawing of the boundary between consolidated South and Central regions at 51st Street, potentially keeping neighbors and advocates out of touch, reducing synergies and joint programs locally, and making legwork harder for the Conference Parks Committee and for the 4th Ward Office.

The University of Chicago has been instrumental in redevelopment of parkland and proposing innovative ways for people to experience, and grow in, open spaces, especially the Midway and into Washington Park with new and genuinely innovative facilities and gardens. Also in improving neglected open space, such as the 55th St. berm. The University has sought and received botanic garden designation. University beautification grants, often in tandem with state grants, have helped many parks and institutions improve their space and will help landscape the Metra viaducts and walls, in conjunction with local groups such as HPKCC committee LILAC. The University, and its arm SECC, often works along aldermen behind the scenes on park issues of importance to the community. There has been some concern that the University's close relationship with the park district could interfere with its ability to speak up with the rest of the community on parks issues and community participation in park upkeep.

Strong councils, where they exist, keep the park district on its toes and take advantage of new opportunities. They sometimes serve as mega block clubs fielding larger issues, but also become narrowly focused and get into disputes with competing interests, such a school groups. Area parks committees and coalitions, such as those of HPKCC and SECC, and organizations like Friends of the Parks have often helped the councils. New councils and block associations, permanent or ad hoc, spring forth when a park is perceived as presenting challenges. Examples in recent years include Kenwood, Bixler, Spruce, and Harold Washington. A challenge is to keep councils thriving when the problems and new opportunities subside.

Parks undergoing substantial planning, rehabilitation, and development to meet changing user needs include Burnham Prairie Path, Jackson, Harold Washington, Harris, Huckleberry, Kenwood, Midway, Nichols, South Shore, Spruce, and Washington and a few years back Bixler and Stout. Public sculpture has also been restored. A problem for Jackson, Washington, and Nichols is management of institutional expansion. On the other hand, the park district increasingly demands community fund contributions for restoration or new facilities.

In Nichols, compromises were reached for redevelopment of the north end in conjunction with a new shared-use park-school gym which will provide at least some recreational facilities to complement a revitalized Hyde Park Neighborhood Club on the other end of the park. Getting details right and within budget is always hard. The Nichols council has reached out to office holders, other organizations and the leadership of the community to resolve issues, although it has also stood up often and shouted "No!" NPAC also brings out large groups of volunteers to tend the park and the gardens and Meadow that they largely built. The formal garden would not have been installed without community (HP Garden Fair) commitment to upkeep. Such volunteer partnership, HPKCC believes, is vital to the parks and the place of parks in communities. Structuring or continuance of Garden Fair responsibilities in the park appear to have been satisfactorily resolved. It is unfortunate that district staff change often and consult less often, so that vital information and relationships/responsibilities are often forgotten, leading to mistakes and bad feelings. Nichols feels the park district let them down on good design of the north end. Relations with the wonderful gym building's staff are good and recently have become excellent with Park District regional and downtown staff (especially Planning and those overseeing garden etc. contracts.

Another example of healthy partnerships is that of the yacht clubs in Jackson Park, helping in everything from kids programs on the boats to cleanup in parks such as Rainbow Beach.

Kenwood Park is an example of a successful partnership between a council, residents, the park district, donors, community organizations and institutions including the University, to achieve new facilities. Increasingly, communities are asked to foot part of the bill--and indeed the three parks in the 53rd Street TIF District (Nichols, Spruce, and Elm) as well as Harold Washington are considered worthy sources of future increment expenditures, although a fair ways down in priority. In Woodlawn, Huckleberry Park was rehabilitated; the newly-acquired Harris Y and the park at 64th and Drexel? are being targeted by the district for redevelopment.

South Shore Cultural Center is an example of a facility where conditions necessitated complicated negotiations to achieve good for the mission of the Center and those it serves while making as good a fit and neighbor as possible out of an imposed educational/quasi commercial use. The council has participated from the start in planning and sometimes conducting programs, gaining new facilities, and upkeep of landscape. The council remains uneasy, especially in the transition of park district personnel and continuing budget shifts and maneuvers between government bodies as well as fitting in the Culinary Institute. The broader framework plan to provide new cultural programming space is under preparation and will be unveiled to the public June 24.

Because of difficulties balancing needs (and promises) at some park-school facilities and a dearth of swimming and class A fieldhouse facilities including failed opportunities in HPK, groups continue to press for a new fieldhouse in or north of Kenwood. The PD has, however, taken good advantage of the new shared use Nichols fieldhouse and the chance to rehab the YW in north Woodlawn (coming late 2004) and combine its planned programs there with new programs and facilities at Midway and Washington Parks. The west end of HPK is working out problems caused by big festivals hosted in Washington Park.

Pressures against keeping, keeping up, and steadily improving and updating our parks are bound to grow as the South Side grows. Vigilance, creativity, and cooperative ventures may be sound answers . HPK, including the University, could also help adjacent neighborhoods expand and develop parkland while space at reasonable prices still exists--there is already a new land swap program between the city and park district.

Gardening, including garden groups for public spaces and the Garden Fair, have been a powerful asset to the community for decades.

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Of ongoing concern:

 

Of big festivals, deteriorating ball fields, a dog park request, and the power and limits of resident and interest group demands

Disputes over the holding of festivals and where in Washington Park and of preserving the Seven Hills natural and passive areas in process of such adjustments is an example of disputes over definition and realization of quality of life in our spaces. Whether substantial change will be instituted as a result of pressure re: festivals this year remains to be seen, but the park district was forced by the outpouring by residents and leagues to improve the playing fields.
Meanwhile on the other side of Hyde Park, about 40 came to the Harold Washington Park Advisory Council in April and May, 2005 to demand a dog park. This issue raises very strong passions both ways, but the varied parties believe a workable solution (and non-intrusive siting) can be found. The process for getting a dog park is very stringent, and the majority of funds are expected to be raised in the community. Next meeting with Ald. Preckwinkle present will consider the issue more carefully. Dog Friendly Area page.

 

 

Natural Areas: Among the best assets of the parks

On the South Side, Jackson Park boasts the largest and most "real" ecosystem, because it has largely developed naturally for over a century (--but also visit the south part of Washington Park, although much was drained for lagoon work and lost its wildlife). Smaller, new oasis/demonstration-type natural areas exist or are to be built south of McCormick Place and at 31st, 47th-Lake Shore Drive in Burnham Park, South Shore Cultural Center (large and spectacular), and at Rainbow Park. For information visit the Park District site or call 312 742-PLAY and ask for someone from Natural Areas (i.e. Mary Van Haaften), Nature Oases, Environmental Programming, or Volunteering/nature stewards in the parks. Jackson Park Council holds hands on work days. The Park District is looking for site stewards to help tend or manage its dozens of natural areas.

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