Community News. Parks home. Cached records from 2003: a park is reborn and planned anew.
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has done an outstanding job gaining attention to a park that has been underserved
by the public. Your efforts are clearly for the benefit of the broader community."
Robert Steele, Community Outreach Manager, Chicago Park District. Now
it's here-the redevelopment/framework plan.
This park again needs an advisory council.
April 23, Monday, 2012 Hyde Park Garden Fair members will clean and plant Norah's Garden at the South end of Spruce Park, 54th St. and Blackstone.
Above: southwest entry, southeast entry with kiosk. Below: west side (fairly open and visible with controversial fence), central "plaza" area (with broken pavement and controversial bench surround).
Spruce Park is part of the South Region
Advisory Council Next meeting (usually 2nd Wednesdays, 6:30 pm, Nichols Fieldhouse, 1355 E. 53rd.) The day will likely be moved to 2nd Monday or Tuesday or the council meet with Nichols..
The council held an Earth Day cleanup and family celebration April 22. A child's garden was installed by the district and council members. And a fine Harvest festival in the fall.
The final meeting on the plan was held July 12, 2005. The Council is mulling what it should use its SECC grant money on that would jump-start implementation. Near top of the list are new trash cans, a replacement demonstration bench. Pricing is underway. The Council also is asking removal of obsolete concrete benches in the center.
The council is looking at ways to encourage and facilitate users taking care of and with their dogs. The council is planning a Harvest Festival for late October.
The council has received a generous 2006 grant from the South East Chicago Commission and a grant from University of Chicago Hospitals.
Spruce's requests at the budget meeting, September 2005
Implement the framework plan. Three reasons to support were cited: aldermanic support, community participation and hands-on work, business support. With confidence that funds can be raised, the president asked that Spruce be made a shining example.
The General Superintendent provided a reply that promises little, but says the district "will work toward including framework plan projects for spruce Park in our 2006-2010 Capital Improvement Plan."
Framework Plan for Spruce Park Renovation approved July 2006
To final recommendations
At the September council meeting SPAC viewed, generally liking, and discussed with Robert Steele of CPD the final draft of the Framework Plan. We hope to have it up in pdf soon. It divides the park into three use sectors via a crushed gravel path that goes from the northwest side diagonal to the middle back then forks, one part straight to the southeast entry and the other wandering west then south to the southwest entry. The new playground would move to the west (sidewalk) side in the middle, with various amenities for parents at the interior edge (that could also accommodate programs), soft surface, water fountain and more. Nearby would be a children's garden and a restored "Snoopy." The large east and north sector would be for casual uses and or dog walkers and the south part be more flat for family use. There would be re landscaping and new lighting including lower acorn globe and higher spots in the back. The playlot would be surrounded by a low wall-and-hedge and the park enclosed with a 4" wrought iron fence. Total cost, part to be raised by the community)- $600,000. See plan below in the Framework section.
The final meeting on the plan was held July 12, 2005. The Council is mulling what it should use its SECC grant money on that would jump-start implementation. Near top of the list are new trash cans, a replacement demonstration bench.
The north end of the park, including the Giordano's Restaurant dumpsters that may be encroaching on the park, are considered challenges that can be addressed in the short term. The edges including the garden (currently needing attention) on the south side- long tended by Norah Erickson, are being studied for enhancement. There are varied views about removing/replacing the edge fencing, although there is general agreement about fencing the playground. Handling and placement of an adequate number of nice trash containers is another matter being studied.
The playground is a key use and element of the park but is often appropriated for "inappropriate" uses by teens and adults, as is the plaza, both serving as "outdoor living rooms." Several members would like the framework plan to recommend moving the playground toward the front of the park and southward. The playground would be fenced in and gated using wrought iron, especially if the park is not to be completely fenced and gated. More and better lighting is considered a must. Repair and reconfiguration of the plaza and paths are considered important, perhaps with a water feature in the plaza (long-range).
Spruce Park Advisory Council- Requirements for Park Framework Study: See description. Plan:
Below see the evolution of desires and concepts. In the final version, moving the playground was at the top. A spray feature, children's garden and exercise stations was put into the long range or low priority category, but there was hope that the children's garden would move up once there was commitment on the playground.
I- A New Vision for Spruce Park, as published in the Spring 2005 Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Reporter. By Sach Diwan
A few years ago, a group of concerned citizens formed a park advisory council to help clean up and improve Spruce park (the corner of 54th and Blackstone Avenue). In order to accomplish our goal of making Spruce Park a safe, clean more friendly and inviting place for residents and their children, we are working with the Chicago Park District to craft a framework plan. The crux of the framework plan will be to:
(a slightly different mix of proposals)
High Priority Items:
· Remove fence along Blackstone Avenue and fence along 54th Street
· Change Playground configuration (move towards south corner of 54th and Blackstone)
o Playground should have soft top
o Similar to Murray School play lot, but with a swing and sand box
o Should be fenced in like Bixler
· Landscape areas adjacent to the north fence to minimize appearance of dumpsters
· Replace existing sidewalk with new winding sidewalk paths
· Remove existing benches and replace with three strategically placed benches in opposite parts of the park (so groups can’t congregate)
· Install a minimum of three bolted permanent trash cans
· Install new lighting (important to increase security and discourage loitering)
· Install new Fountain or Spray Pool
· Exercise stations (pull-up bar, push-up station, sit-up station)
Top Return to mid text
Perimeter: garden planters along 54th Street, chain-link fence set back, discontinuous parkway trees, dumpsters along north alley
Walks: sidewalks ok, interior walks broken and discontinuous
Plaza (broken concrete): questionable uses perhaps related to benches laid out like a living room, garbage can placement poor
Playground: woodchip mulch is now unacceptable, missing apparatus, large trees close and spreading over, not separately fenced in, maybe too far back and in
Landscaping: small mounds, large trees, grass, gardens at south end
Signage: 3 park signs maybe with insufficient rules, one kiosk
Lighting: concrete with cobra head, working, maybe insufficient
Concept Plan Goals expressed
The final recommendations of July 12, 2006
the February 2005 meeting, the council opposed a renaming of Spruce Park at
present and took measures to seek new members, regularize the council, and plan
specific, doable changes such as removing the fence. Continuing problems are
trash cans (often missing) and perception of increased dog droppings. Informing
residents of ordinances on trash and pets was considered. Re
the naming, treasurer Sarah Diwan said, "If a name change hold be considered,
we would like to go through a process of community consultation over who the
park should be named for."
The Park District proposes to rename Spruce Park for U of C 1963 Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Maria Goeppert-Mayer.
Ald. Preckwinkle is in process of seeking opinion from the Spruce Park Advisory Council and has not taken a position. It is unclear as to whether the alderman will call a local meeting. February 9 council meeting consensus was to ask the District to defer or pass on a renaming and keep Spruce.
Herald coverage January 19, 2005.
The park district has also suggested renaming Spruce Park, 5337 S. Blackstone Ave., for Maria Goeppert-Mayer, the late Nobel-Prize-winning University of Chicago physicist. The park's year-old advisory [council] will likely take a vote in February, treasurer Sarah Diwan said. "It looks like we are split right now," said Diwan, referring to one member's opposition to the renaming. "Personally, I'm kind of in favor of it."
The renaming trend is part of a park district effort to increase city parks named for women. Since March 2004, the park district has renamed 17 parks in honor of important women in Chicago's history, said Planning Supervisor Julia Bachrach, who oversees the renaming process. "The board has made it very clear they want me to keep going," Bachrach said.
The park district generally proposes names which are then forwarded to the local alderman who in turn should present the new name to the community for vetting. The park district's board takes vote two months after the new park is formally [proposed.]
"In both instances [Beech and Spruce in the 4th Ward], I an waiting to hear back from the park advisory councils," Preckwinkle said.
With backing from board President Maria Saldana and two additional female commissioners, Bachrach began the renaming initiative roughly a year ago by taking inventory of park names to figure out how many parks carried women's names. "I had never counted them before so we were all a little surprised there were only 27," Bachrach said.
Even after a year of renaming's, 44 parks, or less that 10 percent, of the more than 550 city parks are named for women. Almost 370 parks carry men's names. Top
The 'naming game' and how it ties into (or pales before) serious viability issues for Spruce, by Dina Weinstein
Hyde Park Herald, January 26, 2005
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell you straight out, I serve on the Spruce Park Advisory Council. This involves going to monthly meetings and kvetching about the park, which is located just south of Giordano's Pizza, 5337 S. Blackstone ave.
Park district officials take notes and tell us to call the cops on the debauchery we witness there. It usually sounds like this: "Can we get trash cans inside the park? Why are there no trash cans? There's all kinds of trash in there--trash from druggies and teenage smokers who like to hide in the playground, trash from boozers, dog poop and garbage from fast food snacks bought at joints on 53rd Street."
Once I found a flattened cardboard box on top of the slide apparatus. A homeless person had used it as a bed. He also left toiletries and clothing in the playlot. I was with my pre-school aged son and had to clear away all this before he could use the equipment.
Spruce Playlot Park, I learned from the park's website, was created in 1963, as part of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Urban Renewal project. The park district officially named the site Spruce park in 1973. The park was one of a number of properties named for trees and plants at that time. Spruce trees are sharp-needled evergreens that can grow to heights of 20 to 100 feet. Seven of 40 species world-wide are native to North America.
I am told by Renee Chester at the park advocacy organization, Friends of the Parks, that most of the Chicagoans who trot out to Park advisory Council meetings are women who want better maintained green space for themselves, their families and their community.
I'd like to enjoy Spruce Park. I can see it from my apartment window. But there's something about it that sends me to parks that have names--Bixler and Nichols. There always seem to be people using those parks. There's safety and fun in numbers.
Are they better used and maintained because they' renamed after Hyde Parkers who were educators and community planners? The Chicago Park District seems to think a name can make a park.
COD officials have proposed renaming Spruce Park after Maria Goeppert Mayer. Goeppert Mayer was a Nobel Prize winning physicist at the University of Chicago [managed] Argonne National Laboratory located 45 minutes west of here. She helped advance the theory of how the nuclei of atoms are structured. Her work explained why some atoms are more stable than others and why some atoms have isotopes while others do not. Way to go, Maria!
Turns out of the 550 parks in the city more than 300 are named for people but only 27 were named after women. The park district has been, since last March (Women's History Month) proposing name changes for parks with tree, number and street names. The changes honor famous Chicago women who made important contributions. Included in that list are Bessie Coleman (the first African American female pilot), Arnita Young Boswell (accomplished social worker, educator and activist who founded Chicago's League of Black Women) and Gwendolyn Brooks (Pulitzer prize winning poet).
I like the nature reference in Spruce. It seems to conjure up what the park could be and does actually offer, a natural respite from urban life. I also like the names Willow and Chokeberry and Hyacinth--the above list's former appellations.
Under the snowy cover of winter, only the hard-core dog walkers and sledders are making use of the common green space. My days of long stretches in the parks with my two little boys laden with sand toys, snacks and sunscreen are far off but not forgotten. The excitement of a chance meeting with friends are the fabulous memories of childhood and summer.
Last summer, I marched in the Hyde Park Fourth of July-everyone-marches-parade with the Advisory Council group. We had signs tacked to our kids' strollers that read "No boozing in Spruce Park" and "Pick up your dog poop." We got a lot of comments.
Attention to South Side parks shines light to paltry park offerings down here. Compare the Lincoln Park Cultural Center's offerings* to the South Shore Cultural Center. It make us ask other looming questions like the location of the closest CPD indoor swimming pool?** And why are there no swimming lessons at Washington Park's outdoor pool? [*The discrepancy are much more glaring on the CPD website because of current policy against listing programs not directly put on by the district. **Dyett, King.]
While changing the name is laudable, I'm thinking about whether it would make a difference for Spruce Park. By the way, the university honors Goeppert Mayer in a distinguished scholar position at Argonne. Would a U. of C. representative come to the advisory council meetings if it was Maria Goeppert-Mayer Park?
Maybe the U. of C. police will pay attention and respond quickly when alerted to people boozing, sleeping or gambling in the space .I just can't imagine a cop getting out of his cruiser and slapping cuffs on the guy who doesn't pick up his dog's poop in Maria Goeppert Mayer Park.
An update of the last SPAC meeting (July 14, 2004) follows:
I. Liz Steggemann and Sarah Diwan are working on an event for late summer/ early fall. We hope to have a child safety fair in the park. The police department will be on hand to register/photograph/ fingerprint children and register bicycles (or tricycles!) and the fire department will also have a representative in attendance. Expect a jumping jack, games, sidewalk art, cookies and possibly some community bench painting. Anyone interested in helping out should contact me and I will put you in touch with the committee.
II. Liz and I met with Robert Steele (CPD Community Affairs) and Andre Taylor (Risk Management) on July 19th. Thanks to A.J. Jackson and Alonzo Williams for attending, as well. We toured the park and discussed the badly broken (and dangerous) sidewalks and the need to trim or remove the hedges along the west fence. We should be hearing back from the CPD in the very near future—hopefully with good news about repairing the sidewalks. The CPD representatives seemed truly shocked at the appalling state of the sidewalks and genuinely hope to fund their repair/ replacement. Elijah probably helped our case by taking a nose dive on one of the nastier cracks in the sidewalk—and right in front of Andre from risk management! Andre thinks that the bushes along the west fence are a serious problem, as well. They prevent the police from having a clear view into the park and may be the reason that the playlot is such a popular place for illegal activity. The promptness and seriousness with which Robert, Andre, A.J. and Alonzo addressed this issue is VERY much appreciated.
III. We are writing up a proposal for a small grant from Bank One to purchase some plants for the park. Given the need to remove the bushes along the west fence, this may be the perfect opportunity to purchase some low plants to put in their place. A.J. has promised that the CPD will take care of bush removal and replanting. We will be asking for $500 and sponsorship of our child safety fair.
IV. We are really trying to maintain a consistent 911 calling campaign this summer. There has been a lot of illegal activity in the park at night and the ONLY solution is to call the police. The following activities are illegal in the park: gambling, drinking alcoholic beverages, drug use, fighting, excessive noise, or threatening activity of any kind. The more we call, the more likely the police are to put us on their regular patrol route. You can also call the UC police at 702-8181. They are an excellent resource and often arrive at the scene promptly. WE ALSO NEED VOLUNTEERS TO ATTEND THE CAPS MEETINGS.
V. We finally have a key to our new kiosk at the SE entrance. Sharon Brinkman has volunteered to help decorate it. We hope to have information about the SPAC, upcoming events, and reminders about community policing and dog ordinances.
VI. The CPS agreed to try a new tactic with the trash can issue. We will have a plastic can at each entrance and two in the park. They will use bags, so that the issue of getting the trash out to the curb for pickup is a bit easier. Also, the plastic cans are less appealing as BBQ grills and hopefully will not be stolen as often. We are still waiting for the dog ordinance signs.
On the agenda for the next meeting (Aug. 11 at 6:30 pm): treasurer's report, board election in September, update on the planning of our event, update on Bank One proposal and a discussion of what to put in place of the bushes along the west fence. At the last meeting, we agreed to meet in the park at 6:30 pm unless it is RAINING (in which case we will meet at the Nichols facility). Hope to see everyone there.
What the Herald said in July
Sidewalks continue to crumble and people continue to fall in the park, Justine Way told the Herald. "It' really a safety issue." It looks like there will be new sidewalks in time for the September child safety event. "Over all [the park] has changed a lot over the last year...it's cleaner. I would say there are fewer people drinking. Hopefully it will change even more."
Way also told the Herald that a large contingent from Chicago Cares mulched trees, weeded the plot and collected six bags of garbage this summer.
"The Chicago Park District developed this park in 1963, as part of t he Hyde Park-Kenwood Urban Renewal Project. The park district officially named the site Spruce Park in 1973. The park was one of a number of properties named for trees and plants at this time. Spruce trees are sharp-needled evergreens that can grow to heights of 20 to 100 feet. Seven of 40 species worldwide are native to North America. In the U.S. and Canada, spruces are planted in large numbers for reforestation projects and as Christmas trees. The blue spruce, native to the central Rocky Mountains and cultivated widely elsewhere, can live to be 600 to 800 years old."
By Julia Bachrach, CPD Historian, in chicagoparkdistrict.com.
Norah and Bill Erickson were among the first to bring neighbors together to plan for the park and great believers in what benefits open space brings. Bill made a wooden mockup of the park. Norah made sure there were flowers and was highly active at the time in founding the Hyde Park Garden Fair and other projects with the conference or preventing a highway in Jackson Park.
Spruce is one of a trio of several areas cleared under the Community Conservation Plan of Urban Renewal in the 1960's and designated for parks. Elm (PK-2) behind new Kimbark Plaza evolved by itself; Spruce (PK-5) and Nichols (PK-5) (designations in the December, 1960 map) had informal planning councils and also were watched over by the Parks and Sculpture committees of the HPKCC. Spruce, like Nichols, was planned to have "worthy" public sculptures with public planning input. The sculpture committee was led by the leading persons of the neighborhood during its most productive first dozen years. They raised thousands from the community and in grants from the Woods Charitable Trust and other foundations.
The work chosen for Spruce was a gigantic work called affectionately "Snoopy," by ________. However, it wa made of perishable materials and after a few years during which it suffered vandalism it was removed to a park district warehouse. A few years ago, HPKCC inquired about it and was told it would cost $60,000 to restore!
Also in Spruce is a flat engraved bricks, memorial to five children who died in the playing in the neighborhood when a huge tree fell.
Council president of note for many years was Norah Erickson. The council deeply appreciates Norah's help in the reconstitution effort, as well as her many years of work planting the gardens on the south edge of the park and her monitoring of and activism for this park since its founding, as well as her general parks activism and participation in the work of the Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee.