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Spruce Park. Early records (2002-3)- A park is reborn and planned anew

September, 2003

Notes from the meeting of September 10

The council continues to hone its concept for rebirth of the park. Parts of this will become a capital budget request to the Park District and proposals for grants. The council works with the park district, CAPS, local institutions, organizations, residents, and businesses in seeking good maintenance and safety in the park and signal capital upgrades and has already had a number of successes.

From the Council:

Please contact Justine Way in advance of the meeting if you will need childcare. We can share a babysitter for a minimal cost. 773-955-7115

At the moment, the park is a real mess—there is a shopping cart full of junk in the bushes along the east fence, a mattress, lots of trash. We have also lost our new trash cans (we are back to two outside the park) and the the dog ordinance sign has been removed. I will contact Alonzo about the situation.

1. Andrea Adams from the Park District will attend the meeting to help us prioritize our “wish list” for the park and she will provide us with a sense of the cost. She will also help us with our presentation for the budget committee of the Chicago Park District.

2. Update on our current park improvements – more trash cans, dog signs, bush trimming, kiosk

3. Safety update: homeless issues, CAPS meeting

4. formation of events committee

Notes from the last meeting on Sept. 10, 2003

On Sept. 6th we had a very successful clean-up and picnic in the park. We were very pleased that Toni Preckwinkle managed to stop by and express her support for our cause. We picked up 4 bags of trash and quite a bit of dog excrement. We also discovered that people seem to be living in the tall bushes along the eastern fence and using them as a toilet. We hope to have the bushes cut to the ground in the near future. This is also a favorite location for people hiding from the police when we call at night. The picnic was a huge success with a large turnout and food provided by the Hyde Park Co-op, Alderwoman Preckwinkle’s office, and the SPAC.

Fence issues: The North fence remains garbage ridden, but Giordano's’ has promised to keep it clean if someone cuts down the bushes on the alley side of the fence. This seems to be the duty of Streets and Sanitation, rather than the CPD. The bushes along the West and South fences have been trimmed down and should allow for better monitoring of activity inside the park. As noted above, the East fence is a serious problem that needs to be addressed in the very near future.

Alonzo Williams attended the meeting and updated us on some of the requests we have made over the last few months. Work orders are in for signs and a kiosk. As noted above, we had 2 more trash cans, but they disappeared last week. There remains a problem with the trash cans being inside the park—the CPD is responsible for placing them on the street for pickup and returning them to the park. Alonzo is working on coordinating this. Despite the recent disappearance of the new cans, we would like to thank Alonzo for his efforts—his help is much appreciated!

We formed a committee to write-up a basic plan for renovating the park. It is imperative that we present our plan at the October budget hearings. Rhonda Saffold, Justine Way, John Nolan and Joanne Moy will be putting our ideas into a formalized proposal for the hearings and Rhonda Saffold will present our case to the CPD board. Please communicate your ideas to someone on the committee. We will present the formalized plan at the next meeting.

We are considering applying for non-profit status. Is anyone familiar with the procedure?

We are STILL trying to get in touch with the University of Chicago about their beautification grant. We need to have a representative from our group in contact with the Southeast Chicago Commission.

A few people have paid their membership dues ($15). Please contact Sarah Diwan if you would like to pay your dues. 773-256-0955


November, 2003 budget hearing presentation

Good evening, my name is Rhonda Brown Saffold and I am president of the Spruce Park advisory Council. I stand before you today along with my fellow council members to talk about our council's mission, progress, to date, and goals for the future of Spruce Park. ..Spruce Park is located in the 1400 block of east 54th street between Harper and Blackstone in the heart of Hyde Park.

Our committee was established in June 2003 with the goal to revitalize the park into a safe, clean and comfortable place for the surrounding community including families, senior citizens, young adults, dogs, and the local business owners. To date, we have mobilized more than 25 committee members made up of neighborhood residents and business owners both young and old to achieve our outlined goal.

First, I want to acknowledge the Chicago Park District staff working with us in the southeast region. AJ, Alonzo and Robert have attended our meetings, listened to our ideas and responded quickly. To date the following has been achieved:

  • we have enacted a community policing system and made friends with the police officers working our beat to increase safety and lower homeless occupancy.
  • we send two members from our advisory committee to the monthly CAPS meeting to keep them abreast of our issues.
  • the park district landscaping staff removed the bushes from east fence which was the per fret hiding space for all sorts of illegal activity.
  • and a kiosk was recently installed to keep park users abreast of the council's activities and to post neighborhood resources for food, shelter, drug and alcohol abuse and other social services for homeless men, women and children living in our community.
  • The staff also committed to keeping the park clean by adding more trash receptacles within the park. In fact, the staff helped the advisory council to plan an end of summer clean-up on September 6. More than 15 advisory council members, Alderman Preckwinkle, as well as local business owners helped us that morning. Finally, we have seen a marked improvement in dog owners following the dog ordinance. The staff also committed to increase the number of signs to help us with this issue.


While we continue to work on making the park a safer place for the community, we have identified the following to be allocated in the 2004 budget for short term improvements. They are:

  • to continue with upkeep and maintenance of landscaping issues--to keep the fence hedges trimmed, and to trim back trees,
  • to keep a consistent presence of staff monitoring the park grounds,
  • to increase lighting,
  • and repair several large cracks in the existing path and walk ways that could cause serious injury to park visitors

Finally, as we look towards 2005, we would like to request a framework grant to completely re-design the park. We recognize that this project will make a significant impact on the residential and commercial community and plan to solicit input and resources from all stakeholders in the surrounding area. The Spruce Park Advisory Council is committed to the renovation and revitalization of this park and has pledged to work in collaboration with the Chicago Park District to turn this project into a reality.

When we look into the park today, we see public drinking , drug use, mattresses, litter, even human excrement and gentlemen, this beautiful park is being used as a bathroom. SPRUCE PARK HAS TO CHANGE FO THE BENEFIT OF THE COMMUNITY. With the revitalization of 53rd street corridor, Spruce Park IS the front and back yard for the elderly, young families, businesses, visitors, students and children. This special space can no longer be a haven for crime, filth, or neglect. Our goal is to build a green space that inspires pride, action AND accountability IN ALL who use the park now and BEYOND.

We have put together a packet for your review with our materials, mission and purpose, and documentation for your review. Thank you for your time and attention.


Spruce Park News for August, 2003


A most successful cleanup and picnic were held September 6. The council thanks the 4th Ward Office of Alderman Toni Preckwinkle and Carl Waggoner/55th St. Co-op Market for signal contributions the event!
We will be having a cleanup at 9 am in the park on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2003. This will be followed by a picnic at 1 pm. Please bring a 2 liter bottle of soda or water and folding chairs to the picnic. If anyone can provide a folding table, please let me know.

We have changed our regular meeting time so as not to conflict with Jackson Park. Regular monthly meetings will now be held on the second Wednesday of every month at 6:30 pm. Flyers will be posted one week in advance and an email reminder will be sent out.

Notes from the meeting of August 11

Due to some very nasty weather, the meeting took place at the home of Justine Way and Justin Guinney (1455 E. 54th). Since this proved to be a much easier location (than the park) for conducting the meeting, we will try to have future meetings there. Several people have asked for a list of attendees and contact info, so I will provide a list at the end of the newsletter. [excluded here.]

I. Park revitalization
Quite a few excellent ideas were proposed for our new park. Initial hopes include a small dog park in the NE corner, moving the playlot to the middle of the park and a fountain in the seating area along the southern end. The dog park might solve several problems at once—it would provide a place for dogs to play/ poop and eliminate the favored spot for the drinkers/homeless/drug dealers. In making our case for funding to improve the park, an area for dogs would make Spruce Park unique and might alleviate some of the summertime tension between dog owners and the police. We agreed that moving the playlot to a more central location in the park might help with safety issues and make it less appealing to the “problem-patrons” of the park. New benches, designed for comfortable sitting and very uncomfortable for sleeping were proposed for the current seating area. A fountain that incorporates the memorial to several local children was also proposed.

Funding issues will be discussed at the next meeting. Rhonda is working on the park district grant and Aaron agreed to contact the University of Chicago about possible assistance. Since 5330 S. Blackstone and 1454-56 E. 54th house a substantial number of students, it would certainly be in their interest to help out.

II. Safety and Security
We were pleased to see that Spruce Park was an official “topic” at the last CAPS meeting (Aug. 14, 2003). We are being taken seriously and the police appreciate our efforts to improve the park. They encouraged us to keep calling, especially if there are adults hanging around in the playlot. The REALLY DO ticket for this—as evidenced by a very angry fellow who attended the CAPS meeting for the sole purpose of expressing his outrage at having been ticketed!! They also encouraged us to clarify that the playlot closes at 9 pm and it is illegal for anyone to be there after that time. They thought that we should probably try to have the park hours reflect playlot hours, since it does contain a playlot within its boundaries.

III. Clean-up
We are still missing the kiosk, extra trash cans and more dog ordinance signs. This is a very busy time of year for Alonzo, so we are waiting until September to push for follow-through on these promises. We did get one dog sign, but this is hardly enough—they need to be a all three entrances and inside the park. We are sponsoring a clean-up on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2003. Clearly, the park district is responsible for cleaning the park, but we thought it would be a good idea to show our support. See below for details about the clean-up.
Someone suggested that we try to involve the boy scouts in our park project. Does anyone know anything about boy scout troops in HP? We could also contact Kenwood Academy and see if any groups are in need of a “service project”.

IV. Events
Liz Steggemann agreed to head up the committee for planning events in the park. Her first undertaking is the clean-up and end of year picnic on Sept. 6. The clean-up will take place at 9 am and the picnic will follow at 1 pm. Please bring either a 2 liter bottle of soda or water for the picnic and folding chairs. Can someone provide a folding table? We hope to invite people from the UC, HPKCC, CAPS and Toni Preckwinkle’s office. Sarah Diwan (treasurer) will be taking membership dues during the picnic ($15/year).
Nina Nolan will be organizing a Spruce Park playgroup. We hope to meet once/week and make it clear that the children plan to “take back the park”. Stay-tuned for details. If you know someone with children, please pass the information along to them. Sarah Diwan, director of Baby Ph.D. (a home-based daycare), has agreed to take the kids to play at Spruce occasionally.

It would be nice if someone wanted to pursue the idea of a mural on the south wall of Giordano’s. There is a group at Kenwood Academy that has done such murals all over HP. There are several artists among our group—might be nice to have a joint project with them.

The council presented bylaws and hold a provisional election of officers July 7

Report of the meeting of July 7 by Gary Ossewaarde

The council tentatively chose officers (specifics below) and adopted a bylaws draft to be revised by Rhonda Saffold. Committee nuclei were formed. Members discussed park problems and amelioration with 21st district police officers, park district staff, and the owner of Giordano's restaurant. Matters discussed include trash pickup schedule and procedures, needed repairs to landscape, signage, fences, concrete, benches. Dog pickup was a major concern. The council looks forward to scheduling occasional events in the park.

Spruce Park News, July, 2003 by Justine Way

Spruce Park News July 2003

The last meeting was held on July 7, 2003 in the park. Several people were unaware of the meeting date/time, so we will try to insure that the word gets out for the next meeting…….which will be on Monday , August 11 at 6:30 pm.

Future meetings will be held on the 2nd Monday of every month.

In general, there have been some improvements in the park—less litter and more clean-up by the city, fewer late night problems. The word must be out that someone cares!

Notes from the meeting on July 7, 2003

We were very pleased to have a good turnout for our second meeting. In addition to the local residents, several city officials attended : Alonzo Williams and A.J. Jackson from the Chicago Park District, Yvonne Cary (Community Relations) and two officers from the Chicago Police Department and the manager of Giordano’s. All of them expressed their support of our goals and emphasized their willingness to help out whenever possible.

I. Council officers and Grant Proposal

Rhonda Saffold has been working on our by-laws, which were adopted with a few minor changes. Copies will be emailed later this week and will be available at the next meeting. Rhonda will take care of the paperwork for our official registration with the city as an “advisory council”. The grant proposal for revitalization of the park is underway—please send your comments/ concerns to Rhonda (667-6877).

We elected the following officers:
Chair: Rhonda Saffold
Vice-Chair: Justine Way
Secretary: Justin Guinney
Treasurer: Sarah Diwan

II. Safety and Security

The representatives from the police department discussed common violations within the park and emphasized the need for residents to call the police often. The following are the most common violations in the park:
-consumption of alcohol or illegal substances
-sleeping in the park
-littering/not picking up after dogs
-dogs off leash
-adults in the playlot (without a child)
-any activity after park closure

The officers acknowledged that it is very difficult to catch the dog owner offenders—the good news is that they can be fined without the officer present if any witness is willing to sign the citation.

Contact Justin Guinney (955-7115) or Syl Saffold (667-6877) if you have questions or concerns.

Remember to attend the 2132 CAPS meetings—2nd Thursday of every month. Don’t worry—we will remind you at the SPAC meeting on the 2ND MONDAY OF EVERY MONTH!

III. Clean-up

The park district is promising us at least 3 more trash cans so that we have 2 within the park and one at each entrance. So far, I haven’t seen any new cans……

We are not allowed to post the dog signs that were so kindly made by Kenna. Alonzo will take care of having official “dog nuisance” signs put up.

We are getting a “kiosk”—fancy word for a message board in the park. That will make it much easier to post signs.

Spruce is scheduled for garbage pickup on Monday and Saturday during the summer—please try to notice if this is actually the case. I did notice that some Cook County prisoners were picking up trash in the park a couple of weeks ago. Contact Justine Way at 955-7115 with comments/ questions.

IV. Miscellaneous

We still need someone to head-up the committee on future events in the park. This seems like a fun job……

Two great ideas came up at the last meeting--- definitely worth pursuing:

1. fencing in the playlot area. Much like Bixler—that would help eliminate some of the loitering and designate that part of the park as officially “playlot”

2. A mural on the south wall of Giordano’s. The manager (Peter) expressed some interest in helping with park improvements and will consider pursuing a mural. A group of kids at Kenwood HS have done many of the ones around HP.


Report on the meeting of June 23

Adapted from Spruce Park News by Justine Way (contact her for complete)

Eleven turned out besides Supervisor Alonzo Williams. Gary Ossewaarde of the Conference and George Franklin of the Nichols Park council offered advice. www.hydepark.org was recommended as a resource.

I. Revitalizing the Park

Volunteers will be working on a grant proposal for park makeover and on registry with the Park District. Contact Justine or hpkcc@aol.com with suggestions or comments. Bylaws adoption and election of officers will be held at the next meeting.

An immediate concern is the badly broken sidewalks in the park. We will either request immediate repair of incorporate this into the overall redo. The lighting in the park, especially around the playground and the benches, also needs attention.

II. Clean-up
We discussed the litter problem in the park and noted that we have a trash problem. We have requested a can at each entrance to the park (3) and at least one can near the benches. Alonzo will look into the schedule for garbage pick-up and let us know why they aren't emptying the one inside the park.

We noted that some of the litter problem seems to be coming from [an adjacent restaurant's] dumpster. Jane Comiskey volunteered to speak with the owner of the restaurant about the litter and about getting involve with improving the park.

One thing that we could do in the near future is request a tall, wooden privacy fence.. along the north side of the park... (A mattress should also be removed from there.)

We have requested that an official dog ordinance sign be posted inside the park. We have a stack of signs--these have stronger wording... Alonzo advised that we should call 911 when we see dog owners not picking up- this is the only way that they will be ticketed.

Park maintenance: Alonzo will let lugs know about the Waste Management and moving schedules. Contact Justine on these matters.

III. Safety/Security
Now that it is summer, the problem with after-hours activity and drinking in the park will only get worse. The use of the park, especially the playground area, for drinking and other illegal activity seems to b a problem during the day as well. The only solution to the problem is consistently calling the police when such activities are taking place in the park. ...a police officer on this beat..said that you must cal "911" about any of these problems or there will not be a response. The more we call, the quicker they will respond and the more likely that they will have officers cruise the park more often. He said that we should call for any alcohol/drug use in the park, homeless sleeping on benches, groups of adults with no children gathered in the playground, dog owners not picking up and ANY activity after 11 pm. [A member requested Alonzo to ask whether Spruce is now a park or still a playlot (per the old sign); playgrounds have earlier closing hours.)

We need to make sure there is always a representative of our group at the CAPS meetings. The next meeting is Thursday, July 10th...2nd Thursday Beat 2132, 7 pm downstairs in the HP C-Op on 55th St. Contact on these matters: Justin Guinney or Syl Saffold.

IV. Entertainment!
We agreed that it would be nice to plan some activities in the par, such as music concerts during the summer, more community picnics and an arts festival. Someone needs to take charge of this aspect of park improvement--any volunteers?

See you on the 28th of July- double check.

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