Washington Park: From Olmsted to today and WPAC, WPC news

This page is brought to you by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Parks Committee and its website, www.hydepark.org, not Washington Park Council and is not the website of the advisory council or Washington Park Conservancy. Contact Washington Park Council President Cecilia Butler at 773 667-4160. Contact Parks Chairman Gary Ossewaarde. Join the Conference and support our work.

West of Midway Plaisance and Cottage Grove Ave to King Drive, 5100-6000 South.
Fieldhouse: 5531 S. King Dr. Pool is at its east and Refectory Building east of that. 773 256-1248.
Founded 1869, named in 1881 for the Founding Father of the United States and its first President.
WPAdvisory Council Website http://www.washingtonparkac.org.
Adv. Co Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Washington-Park-Advisory-Council/178931582168672
WPConservancy Journal: washington-park-greenspace-journal.blogspot.com

October 27, Saturday, 10 am-noon. A Celebration of Stewasrdship- Madiem Kawa and 11 years of the Washington Park Conservancy. 10 am a planting (prepare to get dirty). 11 am celebration. Meet at the Fountain of Time, Payne (Cottage) and Midway. Chicago Park District and The Nature Conservancy.



To view pictures for personal use of the Nov. 29, 2015 playground ribbon-cutting in Washington Park 60th St.

Below is the link to this online gallery of photos which were approved by the Mayor's Press Office for release. The photos are available for free download or print purchase. To download, hover your mouse over the desired photo and click the folder icon that will appear in the upper right corner. To order prints, click the “buy” button, select your print size and proceed following the instructions.


Password (case-sensitive): w2aSH5inG4Tn

Please make sure to view these photos on a computer at home as sometimes there are firewall issues/blocks when viewing on a secured network in an office setting. Also, note the copyright information in the caption of each photo which details that these photos are provided for personal use only.


Bird walks resume for 2018?-- Sundays, 8 am. Monthly... Meet north of the pool at the Refectory. Given by Mary Nell Murphy. facebook.com/washingtonparkconservancy.
October 11 and 25. Washington Park Fall Migration Bird Walks.
You are most welcome to join in a bird walk in Washington Park at Sunday 8 am on both October 11 and October 25. We will walk the trails across meadows, around ponds and through the woodland. Uneven paths but slow pace as determined by what comes into view. Bring your binoculars and hope for good weather. Starting Time: 8:00 am. Walk Coordinator: Mary Nell Murphy, marynellmurphy@mac.com. Meeting Place: 5531 S. Russell Drive, just east of Martin Luther King Drive, in the parking lot of the Washington Park Refectory (green-roofed building). The yellow metal park gate *should* be up by 7 am, but in case it is not - you can park on the street, on the other side of Morgan Drive. Mind the bus stop tow zone.

Mary wrote after the May 3 bird walk: Many thanks to Good Neighbors list for putting this morning’s Washington Park bird walk on your calendar. With a turnout of 37 birders we spotted over 50 species including eight kinds of warblers, an American Bittern, and all three kinds of nesting herons. I coordinate two in the Spring (April and May) and two in the Fall (September and October). Details on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/washingtonparkbirdwalks


Are you a loyal patron of Chicago’s parks? Then Park Points was made for you!

The Chicago Park District is excited to announce the launch of Park Points, a new and innovative program designed to enhance further exploration and engagement for park patrons by rewarding some of your everyday interactions with the Park District. The first of its kind in the country, Park Points is available through your mobile device, desktop, and any other devices with Internet access.

Park Points provides you many ways to earn points simply by being a Chicago Park District patron. Earning opportunities could include visiting a specific beach or park, sharing photos via social media, participating in certain classes, attending specific events, and more. As exciting activities are happening in our parks and facilities we will let you know exactly how to earn more points. In fact, by signing up today and linking some of your social media accounts, you’ll instantly be rewarded with points!

The best part of it all is that you get to take the points you’ve earned and bid on exclusive experiences such as turning on Buckingham Fountain, private training from a boxing expert or taking a boat cruise to enjoy the lakefront fireworks! And that’s just the beginning, throughout the year we’ll be adding exciting experiences for you to bid on.

Park Points is our way of saying thanks for being our biggest supporters and reward you for your continued loyalty.

If you have not checked out Park Points yet, visit www.chiparkpoints.com to register and start earning points now!


May 8 2010 special benefit report.

See Washington Park Wetlands Project 2011 page. (Deadline passed due to IL Hist. Pres. Agency resistance.)

Appeal: please do NOT call the Cecilia or anyone else of the advisory council, or this website, or the park concerning sites or reservations for weddings, picnics, special events. All reservations now go through the downtown office. Search the website and click "Permits." Rules are changing. Call Park Services at 312 742-5369. PS-"rave" and other sudden large or noisy gatherings are not allowed. All groupings larger than 50, or asking to use PA systems must reserve.

Events in the park in 2014 include Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream by Chicago Shakepear. July 27, Sunday, 4 pm. By the fieldhouse?

Some links/contacts.
Olympic proposal home, with map and discussion. Commentaries, and HPKCC's letter and the Washington Park Council positions - see
Olympics-Washington Park page. For general start with
Olympic Proposal homepage.
Read about the Allison Davis Garden and its dedication, 9/17 2005. Budget requests. Celebrate the 150th year of the park's naming with a suite of programs and an exhibit.

Among rarer sightings in Washingtn Park was a juvenile whooping crane in the Washington Park lagoon, May 2005. This was #418 from the hatching of 2004--the only one of its cohorts to follow a wild flock rather than the glider plane south. #418 was later cited doing just fine in Wisconsin. This is probably the only whooper cited in Chicago in the past 100 years. Photos George Rumsey. Locator maps.

Washington Park Refectory

View through the park northwest toward the Refectory


Closeup, Washington Park Refectory

The historic Refectory in Washington Park was designed by Daniel Burnham's firm, originally as headquarters for the South Parks Board of Commissioners. It now hosts special functions. It's located south of Morgan (the main east-west road) and southeast of the field house and pool at Morgan and King Drive.

Washington Park Seven Hills Nature Peserve

The nature preserve in the Seven Hills east of the east lagoon

Washington Park lagoon with willow

Reflections in the lagoon. Major work was completed and dedicated late summer, 2004


Sculpted concrete scene in Lorado Taft's massive Fountain of Time, Washington Park. Sculture was restored, repair to basin below  under construction 2004

Processional scene in Lorado Taft's Fountain of Time, Washington Park southeast corner

Views of Lorado Taft's Fountain of Time, newly reopened after restoration. February 22, 2003, the Hyde Park Historical Society granted a Paul Cornell award to sculptor/restorer A. Dajnowski, the Ferguson Fund of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Park District for their combined efforts in rescuing Lorado Taft's masterpiece in concrete, The Fountain of Time. Still needed is restoration of the reflecting pool, an integral part of the experience.



(To Locater maps. To Olympic Proposal and commentaries page. To Arboretum page.
To Fountain of Time
page. To Allison Davis Garden page.)


Washington Park Advisory Council meets 3rd Wednesdays, 7 pm, in the Fieldhouse, 5531 S. King.

Advisory Council schedule. Contact President Cecilia Butler, 773 667-4160. Meets 3rd Wednesdays at 7 in the fieldhouse.
WPAC Website http://www.washingtonparkac.org.

Washington Park Conservancy

Now on Facebook and Flickr: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Washington-Park-Conservancy/116723930735 (FACEBOOK)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/washington-park-chicago/ (FLICKR). The conservancy is appealing for its 2010 needs, including Green Kids/Teen Ecological Adventure--send check made out to Friends of the Parks/Washington Park Conservancy, to Washington Park Conservancy, PO Box 53299, Chicago, IL 60645. Or email wpconservancy@gmail.com.
Blog- http://www.washington-park-greenspace-journal.blogspot.com.
Madiem Kawa site steward- sunshine0711@gmail.com.
Also contact 773-203-3418/wpconservancy@gmail.com

Madiem Kawa. sunshine0711@gmail.com. 773-203-3418.
Our mission statement:
The Washington Park Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to revitalizing green space in Washington Park by preserving wildlife habitat and promoting beautification, environmental education, and cultural programs for the public. Holds monthly or more activities in the park esp. natural area and arboretum. Otherwise not know to meet regularly. Fiscal agent is Friends of the Parks.

Conservancy schedule for 2010 (details on the Facebook)

Habitat Restoration workdays- every 3rd Saturday 9-noon March-October, meet at Fountain of Time

October 27, Saturday, 10 am-noon. A Celebration of Stewasrdship- Madiem Kawa and 11 years of the Washington Park Conservancy. 10 am a planting (prepare to get dirty). 11 am celebration. Meet at the Fountain of Time, Payne (Cottage) and Midway.


Park and Park District News Events, Workdays

October 27, Saturday, 10 am-noon. A Celebration of Stewasrdship- Madiem Kawa and 11 years of the Washington Park Conservancy. 10 am a planting (prepare to get dirty). 11 am celebration. Meet at the Fountain of Time, Payne (Cottage) and Midway.

Registration for programs.

Fall Registration for park programs

Substantial changes have been made to the system by ActiveNet, the Park District’s web vendor (more on these changes below). While we believe these changes will make a big impact on the performance of the system, the Park District is taking the extra step of dividing registration into two different zones, to help ensure a successful fall registration.

Parks located WEST of California Avenue (2800 W.) will begin online registration on 3rd Mondayin August at 9am.

Parks located EAST of California Avenue (2800 W.) will begin online registration on 3rd Tuesdayin August at 9am.

In-person registration begins either Saturday, August 25 or Monday, August 27, depending upon the park.

It is important that all patrons either create an account in the PD website or update their account information prior to fall registration.
Update your account information now. Once logged into the system, click on the "Answer/Edit Account Questions" link. Look for these questions under the "Account Creation Questions" section for each account holder. Remember to update this information for all individuals on your account
. Questions? at the website or play@chicagoparkdistrict.com.

Third Saturday Workdays. Washington Park Conservancy - Habitat Restoration Workday. Meet at the Fountain of Time. Gloves and tools provided. Madiem - 773-203-3418.
Workdays every 3rd Saturday 9-12. April 21, May 19, June 16, July 21, August 18, September 55, October 20... Fountain of Time. Gloves and tools provided-- no flip-flops or shorts.

Advisory Council meets 3rd Wednesdays at 7 pm in the fieldhouse.

Washington Park Conservancy:http://www.flickr.com/photos/washington-park-chicago

Migratory and other Bird Walks coming with Mariann Hahn

Saturday, 7 am. Bird Walks with expert birder Marianne Hahn in Washington Park. 7 a.m., meet in the Refectory parking lot. May 4 & 18, September 14 & October 5.

We are working on our Teen Ecological Adventure programming, we will update you once it's final.

Our programming is supported by the Washington Park Advisory Council, Chicago Park District and Friends of the Parks.


4 times in winter and early spring Civic Orchestra of Chicago chamber groups perform in the Refectory Sundays at 3 pm. http://www.civicorchestra.org, 3212 294-3803.



Likely Coming this summer.


Du Sable Museum/ Chicago Park District received final payments for completion of the Washington Park roundhouse building as an addtion to the Museum. The planning is complex. They have done the work in the roundhouse building and hope to hae the new space filled and up and running by late 2012.

Final payment for the Roundhouse Project at the DuSable Museum of African American History. Final payment of $914,343, from the 1999 Aquarium and Museum Capital Improvement Program, paid for the completion of the Roundhouse Project at the DuSable Museum of African American History. Total cost of the project was $2,147,600.00. Commissioner Dr. Margaret Burroughs abstained from vote due to her relationship with the DuSable Museum.


January 4, 2009: Public notice:

Hello, this is Madiem Kawa, Washington Park's Nature Area Steward and founder of the new organization the Washington Park Conservancy, our mission to preserve and enhance Washington Park's Green Space and to promote education and cultural activities for the public that will be sustained for generations.

1) The Washington Park Conservancy is looking for a birder to voluntarily lead regular bird walks starting in early spring 2009. The birder can set their own hours.
2) The WPC is looking for someone to lead tree id walks in WP's Arboretum in 2009.
3) We are also looking for butterfly, dragonfly & bat monitors for 2009.

The Chicago Park District designated Washington Park as a bird and butterfly sanctuary.

Interested persons can contact Madiem Kawa directly on her cell phone @ 773-203-3418 or email sunshine0711@gmail.com.

For the entire year of 2009, we're dedicating Washington Park's green space volunteerism to the new first family, Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha Obama for engaging the country in Community Service. Michelle Obama, is the founder of the University of Chicago Service Center that accounted for 20% of volunteers for the Washington Park Conservancy in 2008.

Washington Park Green Space 2008 Accomplishments

214 volunteers from 9 organizations worked 800 hours

2000 gallons of trash removed

4 dozen trees mulched

1700 native wetland plants were planted

Rose container garden

Butterfly container garden

Washington Park Conservancy 2008 Partners

University of Chicago, CKP, Bart Schultz,

University of Chicago, Community Service Center

University of Chicago, Prairie Eco Systems, Instructor Justin Borevitz

20th Ward Aldermen Willie Cochran

Chicago Park District

Friends of the Parks

One Brick

Chicago Conservation Corp

Urban Sustain

Dyett High School

Chicago Wilderness

Fishin' Buddies

Openlands: Julie Samuels

Chicago Children's Museum

Stay Environmentally Focused

Exciting and New 2009 Volunteer Opportunities, take a look:

Please forward to your email lists, post on bulletins boards, post on online calendars and announce in your meetings.

Wildlife Monitors
Butterfly -- This position was recently filled; however, you can still take the class.
Dragonfly -- This position was recently filled; however, you can still take the class.
Note: Contact Becky Schillo (CPD) with any detail questions at 312-742-4072.
Bird Walks: We're looking for a birder to lead regular bird walks and build a birding community in Washington Park.
Washington Park Green Kids: Teach the youth about the wonders of nature.
Nature Area Habitat Restoration: Workdays on every third Saturday from 9am until Noon (March to October)
Plant native plants
Collect & spread seeds
Mulch trees and shrubs
Remove trash and invasive species
In the spirit of service, we hope that you'll consider to give back to your community by volunteering. If you do volunteer, please consider making Washington Park as one of your stops.

If you can't volunteer, please make a tax deductible donation to revitalize Washington Park's Green Space:

Make your check payable to Washington Park Conservancy

Send donations to:

Washington Park Conservancy

P.O. Box 53299

Chicago, IL 60653-9998

We're an all volunteer organization, your donation will be 100% dedicated to green space restoration, community education (outreach) and youth programming, such as for purchasing plant material (native plants, gloves, trowels, etc) for the Washington Park Green Kids program.

Please contact Madiem at 773-203-3418 if you're interested in becoming a volunteer.

We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.
Winston Churchill

M. Hoke reported the following about fix/cleanup (and what wasn't) for the IOC visit in April 2009. Note, in August 2009 the waterfall was back in service after a 3-year hiatus.

I am not against the Olympics coming to Chicago but I do have reservations regarding the tactics that the City is utilizing and I really am concerned about the City and the Park District maintaining whatever they construct afterwards.

What has gone on in Washington Park and Jackson Park in the last week is truly amazing! It makes me wonder if Tim Mitchell is a reincarnation of Potemkin and Mayor Daley of Czarina Catherine the Great of Russia?

Washington Park:

The washroom located on 55th Street just west of Cottage Grove Avenue has never been open in the eleven years I have resided in Hyde Park. Then last week it opens and actually is functional. An older fellow told me that he had ran in Washington Park for over thirty years and that washroom had never been functioning until now.

The reflecting pool in front of the Statute of Time located at Cottage Grove Avenue and Midway Plaisance actually was filled with water. Two years ago a renovation of this landmark was completed and the pool had water in it once, for a week, since then.

The lagoons had several years of trash removed from then on Saturday by a contractor. The people who fish behind the Statute of Time believe the trash will start accumulating in the water come Monday.

A large crew raked the side of the roadways along 55th Street between Cottage Grove Avenue and King Drive but if one goes to the side of the lagoon that is not visible from the street one will find accumulated trash that goes back years. It is really bad going west from 57th Street at Cottage Grove Avenue.

Five years ago the Park District installed a system in the lagoons at Washington Park to circulate the water within the lagoons. It has not been turned on since. Why?

Jackson Park:

The City and the Park District raked the area between the Museum and 62nd Street but as soon as the lagoon turns east the trash reappears.

The washrooms located at 62nd Street between Cornell Drive and Stony Island Avenue are open for the first time in over fifteen years.

Washington Park, Jackson Park at 62nd to 63rd and Midway Plaisance:

The garbage cans were removed, probably for aesthetic purposes, hopefully they will be returned before garbage starts to build up.

This is why I have concerns regarding the Olympics coming to Chicago, will the City maintain what they build for the event after it is history!

DEDICATED OCTOBER 18 2008. The rehabilitated quarter acre playground south of the swimming pool and fieldhouse is expected to open in early summer and be dedicated after July 4. It is a "signature" playground that tests several elements to be applied in restorations or new playgrounds in other parks. It adheres fully to accessibility standards including for persons with disabilities. Swings will be easier to get into and have sturdier backs. The slide will have fewer steps. There will be a water spray, and the whole surface will be "soft." The fence will have safety doors. There will be a new walk to give a flow. Restored concrete columns suggest those of he refectory and two spring riders are shaped like sheep, because the Sheep Meadow was an important feature of the early park. It's intended for 12 and under, with 3 separate areas for different ages. Cost is $700,000, funded from Parkways Foundation. The council and others seek to have a protocol for rules and regulations (including posted signs-- which others oppose), cleanliness, orderliness, and upkeep. It has a picket fence.


Visit the waterfall and natural area grotto by Payne and 57th. The fall's season is that of the pool.

September 20 2006 the city announced a proposal to build an Olympic Sized stadium in Washington Park as part of its bid for the 2016 Olympics. After lots of input and charettes how to best make this work and leverage it into community and park growth, the bid was denied in October, 2009.

See Olympic Washington page; see the Olympic homepage and its subpages for all other material on this subject. In December 2008 an aquatic component was added, pres. where "Hockey" is on the map below.

The Advisory Council's spinoff Olympic Committee meets 1st Saturdays, 9 am in the fieldhouse.

Note that the Logistics and Broadcast centers are shown in the old Armory, which many want to see have a new use--there are competing interests. The lighted area at the north end is Dyett High School. How would it be impacted? And there is really little left of the ball fields during the construction and olympic period. Hockey fields are now moved to Jackson Park.

Washington Park with 2016 Olympic facilities. Tribune


Summer Wednesdays and Thursdays- 10:30 am. Coca Cola Penny Cinema at DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Pl, promotes literacy by giving each kid a book and screens films of broad cultural, ethnic and historical importance. Held at various school breaks and a good stretch in summer.

The park will get a $700,000 upgrade to the regional playground between the fieldhouse and refectory- it will become a signature playground--$400,000 is from the org. that puts on Lollapalooza downtown plus Parkways Foundation. In future years more parks will receive signature playgrounds, funded in part by Lollapalooza.


Park events and programs (see also above)

August 18, Sunday, 6:30 pm 4 pm. Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents Shakespeare in the Parks, "The Comedy of Errors." Part of the Chicago Park District's "Night Out in the Parks. Free. Washington Park- by Refectgory?

Nature Oasis family events in Washington Park- seed gathering and final workday Oct. 17 at 9, tree walk at 1:30

Online Program Registration Utilizes PayPal
Before you register online for one of our fall classes, we encourage
you to review the new screens and review our Q&A about the new system. You can
do this by copying and pasting the web address below into your web browser:


Online registration is followed by in person. 2nd month of a quarter for next quarter. View programs online.


Summer camps

Cricket in the park: Cricket: Sabbir Ahmed, 773 372-9270. (From the June 29, 2005 Hyde Park Herald:)

Through the Midway to Washington Park, a third sport of the British Commonwealth [in addition to lawn bowling and croquet once at WP and now at Jackson] can be seen entertaining another group of white cotton-clad players. Every Sunday morning, near the baseball diamonds at 55th Street and Elsworth Avenue, six teams converge to play three separate Cricket matches. This game, [vaguely similar to] American Baseball, has no foul territory, a 5-pound ball, two concurrent batters and an average score that exceeds 200 runs.

One team's captain, Sabbir Ahmed, said that 49 teams play in and around Chicago and the game is growing in popularity. Another player attributed this growth to the immigration of people from Cricket-playing countries and increased coverage of Cricket matches on television.

The Great (Sheep--and sheep it had in the early days) Meadow or South Green, filled with ball fields, park's center north of Morgan/55th, was named the Harold Washington Common Ground in 1991 as part of a compromise (some say sop) in naming. (Parties sought to rename the park for the recently-deceased mayor, but the District was the opposed to changing names of parks. The compromise was to name East End Park a mile east for Harold and just the Meadow in Washington Park for him. This dedicatory stone is in a garden oasis along Morgan. The inscription quotes Harold, in part:
"Chicago is one city: We must work as one people for our common good and our common goals. I want to reach out my hand in friendship and fellowship..." Olmsted intended this area to be a great re-creator from the corrupting, wearing-down side of the city, and Harold caught that spirit here.

Some of the playing fields have been bones of contention (i.e. cricket), other ball fields have backed up demand and either are not kept up as well as or lack facilities ball players want.

Photos Gary Ossewaarde

Sign and part of the garden for Harold Washington Common Ground Meadow. Gary Ossewaarde
Inscription stone at the dedicatory garden of the Harold Washington Common Ground north of Morgan Dr. Gary Ossewaarde
Gardon and dedicatory stone, Harold Washington Common Ground Meadow. Gary Ossewaarde
Ball field in the Common Ground Meadow. Gary Ossewaarde
Ball field 2 in the Common Ground Meadow, Washington Park. Gary Ossewaarde

DuSable Museum of African-American History, east edge of the park at 56th, is a major anchor of the Park, and indeed of the mid South Side. Here are the sign announcing it's multi-million expansion into and renovation of the historic, Burnham designed roundhouse stables, views of the original building (South Parks Commission bldg, Daniel Burnham) and part of the 1st addition, and of sculpture in what's left of the Mall north of the original DuSable, mostly without identifying and background signage. The first is a bronze sculpture of 18th c. German writer and thinker Gotthold Eprhram Lessing. At least one of the others is likely by Richard Hunt. Photos Gary Ossewaarde

DuSable Museum west side. Gary Ossewaarde South entrance of the original DuSable Museum bldg (South Parks Commission bldg.) Gary Ossewaarde
Rendering of DuSable reuse of the historic Stables roundhouse bldg. Gary Ossewaarde The first DuSable Museum addition fromthe southeast.  Gary Ossewaarde
Art in the "Mall" east side of the park north of DuSable. Photo Gary Ossewaarde Art in the WP mall. Photo Gary Ossewaarde
Sculpture in WP mall.  Photo Gary Ossewaarde Bronze cast by ?, Gotthold Ephram Lessing, 18th c German thinker and author.
Mall looking north from DuSable north balustrade. Gary Ossewaarde Center of the Mall, east sector north ot DuSable Museum. Gary Ossewaarde


The top issues for the Council now are park refurbishment, lighting, and upkeep of the playing fields and, even more, handling the big summer festivals. A recent issue is reopening the park's name, for Harold Washington- see Park Renaming page.

Here's some thoughts on park conditions (since seen to improve), and concerning festivals in the park.

A park visitor wrote this website: The lagoon area in Washington Park is scandalous.
· trash, garbage cans and plastic bags in the waters
· garbage cans that have not been emptied in months
· bathrooms that are boarded up
· the pump has not been turned on at the 57th street end of the lagoon
· algae and stagnant water have collected in the lagoons
· flower boxes that have no flowers
It is apparent that the Park District is ignoring the consent decree that they entered into previously. It is also apparent that our Alderwomen do not visit this park or they would be protesting the conditions.
The Chicago Park District should not consider purchasing land at Rosehill Cemetary to develop a new park and it should not take over the operation of Thillens Stadium if they cannot afford to maintain the parks on the south side! Grant Park and Lincoln Park are being maintained in an outstanding fashion with no apparent cutbacks. Why can't the Park District maintain the south side parks in the same fashion?
Joseph Jankovic
4940 S. East End Avenue

In May 2012 Dyett students and the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, with sponsorship and volunteers from the US Postal Service's Fruitful Neighborhoods, and Chicago Park District planted fruit trees in the urban farm/garden at the school. It's designed to sustainabley provide fresh fruits and vegetables to neighborhoods.

In June, 2006 the Basin for Lorado Taft's Fountain of time had a dedication celebration of sorts, even if not yet finished. June 7, 2005 thousands of CPS kids participated in Poetry Month (theme "Time" ), reading their and other relevant poems on the theme of "time" at the Fountain. This had a major sponsorship. In spring 2007 th fencing came down.

Adjacent Allison Davis Garden (really a gathering spot, overview and frame for the Fountain of Time, is finished and dedicated September 17, 20o5.


Festivals, parking crunch, pollution and ball fields

Update on Festivals, 2006. Background follows with more further down.

2007: Residents are still leary about coming festivals in Washington Park, differ on where they should be, whether anything got better last year, cite trash, noise, parking/traffic, not enough publicity on UC garages open.

According to the March 22 2006 Herald, Park District officials announced that the summer festivals will stay in the north end of the park in 2006, center at the edge of the ball fields and south of Dyett School, Provident Hospital, and lots of housing, some of it new. But the District will hire a third party consultant in April to monitor the event this summer and make recommendations. The Advisory Council continues to advocate moving to the southwest corner of the park (not the southeast natural areas) near King at about 59th, saying adjustments made in 2005 have been insufficient.

Part of the fight is political, as Ald Preckwinkle (5th) would like to keep the popular festivals north of 55th and other aldermen, it would appear, would like to capture the fests. But it's about a lot more than that.

Park District COO James Chronis told the council March 15, according to the Herald, "I don't know that there is a better location [than the present] with the proper infrastructure, but we are working on it. We will not solve it this year." He said changes last year--more and better regulated parking, turning speakers inward, better trash handling--are progress and compromise. "The complaint were minimized. Not that everything was solved, but we want to work even harder this year," Chronis said. "The park district's position is that's where the festivals were and that's where we know how to deal with them. That's what works. If there are problems and you can't solve them, you are just moving the problems."

Alderman Preckwinkle also added, "I live about four or five blocks away an there were times that I could hear pretty distinctly what wa going on in the park and I didn't hear that last year. The parks belong to all of us, not just the people on the perimeter. for most of my constituents, and granted they don't live on the perimeter, these neighborhood festivals are great for them."

President Cecilia Butler and park neighbor Michael Wilson disagreed. Wilson told the council, "It's unreasonable with all the space in the park that you would jam it against people's homes." It was not reported whether input has been sought from people living along King Dr. and 60th, or users of the southwest part of the park, or any impact studies done regarding a move of festivals to the southwest sector.


Wash Park neighbors allowed to air complaints- Park District response follows

Hyde Park Herald, March 23, 2005. By Mike Stevens

Growing resident concern about Washington Park's upcoming string of summer festivals prompted senior Chicago Park District officials last week [March 16] to promise an April planning meeting to address noise, traffic an safety issues.

In the few years since the summer-long series of privately-run festivals moved to the north end of the park, nearby homeowners have complained that their backyards are being used as bathrooms, the rodent population has boomed and tight parking combined with short tempers have some worried about violence.

"This is absolutely crazy. We are trapped in our houses over the weekend. The noise is unbelievable," said Michael Wilson who lives in Drexel Square just off the park's northeast corner. "It's outrageous you put this in a residential neighborhood."

A two-story parking garage in the southeast corner of the park is being considered to ease the park's summer parking shortage, park district officials said. Trolley service shuttling festival goers to and from remote parking lots might also be used to lessen parking problems during events such as the African festival of the Arts, which draws 20,000 people daily in early September.

But some problems might only be solved by moving other events, like UniverSoul Circus, farther into the park, said Carol Hicks, who represents a nearby six-unit condominium building. "When the wind blows you know the circus is in town," Hicks said.

Most of the two dozen residents who packed into the March 16 meeting agreed the festivals, which cater to the surrounding African-American community, should remain but voice frustration at a perceived lack of planning."It's important that we appreciate these festivals. We can't do this in Grant Park and feel at home," said nearby resident Henry Johnson. "We deserve the best planning he park district can do. We have not gotten that."

In response to t he stream of complaints, Jim Chronis, chief financial [Operations] officer for the park district, promised to return to the park in April along with representatives from the Chicago Police Department, festival organizers and related park staff. Call the fieldhouse for more information about the next meeting time. 773 256-1248.

"Obviously these events are not ones we want to eliminate but the planning and location we need to reconsider," Chronis said.

Washington Park Advisory Council members have complained for years that festivals tear up the grounds and disrupt baseball and softball players who pay for permits to use the park.

Council president Cecilia Butler continues to lobby for a more permanent structure, like a band shell, to be built in the Seven Hills area of the park south of the DuSable Museum of African American History.

See below an appeal to keep the Seven Hills as they are and to not move festivals there.


The Chicago Park District in March, 2005 agreed to resurface the softball diamonds in time for summer leagues, according to Planning Director Arnold Randall and Chief Financial Officer Jim Chronis. In-house crews will build an additional restroom to accommodate ball players and festival crowds. (This will likely not be open by the start of the season; port-a-potties will be used until the facility is ready.) The officials were responding both complaints at the March (and earlier) council meeting and a list of 7 demands by the softball leagues--whose fees have risen for what? New benches close to the fields, but not likely bleachers and fence-backstops are "likely" but not lights for now. (An expensive power line would have to be run and transformer installed.) Chronis was quoted in the Herald as saying "We'll take a few steps, [but] I'm not saying we are going to get everything this year."

At the April meeting, the officials who showed up continued to promise work on the fields but to date little had been done. In August there were substantial temporary changes and improvements, more are promised for 2005:

District addresses Wash Park's noise, pollution, parking

Hyde Park Herald, August 24, 2005. By Tedd Carrison

The Chicago Park District introduced the South Region's new marketing and communications manager and offered a finalized solution to festival-related parking, noise and cleanup problems plaguing residents near Washington Park during the park advisory council's Aug 17 meeting.

According to Park Operations Manager Anita Boyd, the performance stages at this year's African Festival of the Arts will be in the same location as years past but turned inward to direct the sound away from nearby homes.

To ease street parking, three free lots were added and Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) is working with the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Office of Special Events to install signs directing motorists off the street.

The new lots are located at 55th Street and Ellis Avenue, 55th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue and 58th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. each will be open Sept. 3 to September 5 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The entire 5200 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue will be designated as disabled parking. Boyd said a film being shot in that location may interfere, in which case disabled parking will be moved west to the 5200 block of South Payne Avenue.

The park district said parking enforcement will be "vigorous" with a 20 minute tow-truck response time and ample signs designating no-parking zones. A work crew will be in the park from Sept. 2 to Sept. 6 to asst in clean-up efforts.

At the meeting, residents expressed resentment at "erroneous" statements by International Festival of Life Producer Ephraim Martin that refer to a "very loud and vocal [group of] individuals whose objective is to stop Cultural/Educational festivals in Washington Park." Advisory council President Cecilia Butler said that no one in her group objects tot he park's annual festivals but many would prefer t hey move tot more isolated grounds south of 55th Street.

Boyd said the park will begin the "long process" of researching this move in the fall. "As long as we can start this year, it is my hope that by festival time next year, we will have something in place," she said.

[Resident Henry Johnson said,] "It's an effort ...Planning for the minimum impact on the community, that is all we ask."

Nature: In June 2005, the park district 1) made commitments backed up by contracts to take care of trash, harmful plants, and continued rehabilitation of the lagoons and forestry-natural areas management (see Park Issues page.)
2) took partial steps on the festivals.

To ease parking. New signage, ticketing and towing, 4 new designated parking lots. They will also designate Cottage 53rd-55th for handicap parking but this annoyed residents.
Security will be beefed up along with traffic-directors.
Adequate Streets and San crews will arrive immediately after festivals.
Speakers must be directed into the park and a large trailer parked behind each stage. Stages will be at 55th and Payne and south of the armory.
The park district will not, at least now, consider moving festivals south to the passive, more "natural" parts of the park.

At the April 2005 meeting: Ald. blasts park brass for Wash Park fests

Hyde Park Herald, April 27, 2005. By Mike Stevens

For the second month in a row, Chicago Park District officials last week promised better planning for Washington Park's controversial string of summer festivals but delivered few specifics. "How long does it take to consider," Ald. Leslie Hairston said to park district officials at a crowded and contentious April 20 meeting. "I am here to find out why you can't do your job."

In the few years since the summer-long series of privately-run festivals moved to the north end of the park, nearby homeowners complain these festivals bring parking headaches, unruly behavior and music blaring from walls of speakers. "It was just utterly unbelievable.. it sounds like surround sound," said Tom Thurlow, who lives three blocks east of the park. "I couldn't believe it was from the park."

Hairston took to task the park district and festival promoters who attended the meeting before adding that she was powerless to force festival promoters to move th events further into the park since the area in question is not in her ward. The southern half of Washington Park sits in Ald. Arenda Troutman's (20th) ward. Troutman did not attend the meeting to respond to repeated calls for the large festivals to be moved south into her section of the park.

Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), whose ward does include the festival grounds, expressed reluctance to block any of the looming events, almost all of which begin planning more that 20 months in advance. "I think its going to be very difficult to make changes for this summer but we'll make efforts to mitigate the impact [the festivals] have on residents," Preckwinkle said.

For years the park district has been tweaking requirements placed upon festival promoters to minimize the impact on nearby residents, park district officials said. At the same time, events like the African Festival of the Arts and the African Caribbean Festival of Life have seen attendance levels jump making more work for the park district.

Some possible short term changes include directing all loud speakers into the park away from nearby homes, forcing promoters to hire additional security and boosting the number of Streets and Sanitation workers cleaning up neighboring blocks during events. These options reassured bob Taylor. "Because of what the festivals bring to the neighborhood, I think we can deal with some parking problems [especially with] changes being implemented," Taylor said.

But most of the three dozen or so other residents in attendance at the park's advisory council meeting expressed doubts. Of particular concern to Drexel Square resident Henry Johnson was the failure of two senior park district officials who attended the March meeting to show up for last week's follow up. New staff unfamiliar with the situation forced residents to rehash complaints instead of work on solutions, Johnson said.

Washington Park Advisory Council President Cecilia Butler continued her long-standing push for a more permanent structure, like a band shell, to be built in the Seven Hills area of the park south of the DuSable Museum of African American History.

With millions of dollars invested in returning this area to its original pastoral state, the park district's A.J. Jackson said the chance of that happening were very slim. "We want to keep that a passive area--a place to meditate, to contemplate," Jackson said.

Some suspected it might have more to do with Seven Hill's proximity to influential institutions like the University of Chicago Hospitals and the University of Chicago.

See more. Top

Rejoinder by Gen. Superintendent and CEO Timothy J. Mitchell

To the Hyde Park Herald, May 11, 2005

Contrary to the Herald's "Alderman blasts park brass for Washington Park fests," the Chicago Park District is actively working to address the noise and traffic congestion produced during the parks summer festival schedule. We are aware and have discussed in great detail the growing increase in festival attendance and its effects on community living.

The Chicago Park District has been very involved in community dialogue regarding festival placement. For this reason, we are disheartened by your reference to top region staff who participated in the advisory council meeting as being "unfamiliar with the situation." This is incorrect and does a disservice to those individuals. The region manager, deputy region manager and area manager have all attended previous meetings and are acutely aware of the issues. These individuals keep their fingers on the pulse of the community and are more than capable of addressing the advisory council on this or any other park issue.

We hope the community understands that festival placement merits a great deal of deliberation. In addition to addressing the concerns of the advisory council, we have also conducted meetings with softball league officials, the local horse back riding club and boating organization. Ultimately the Chicago Park District must develop a plan that considers the interests of all who use Washington Park.

It is our goal to address the residents' concerns while continuing to welcome these extremely popular events to the park. With continued participation from the the community and elected officials, we are confident that together we can accomplish this goal.

Herald editorial April 27. Park district not listening to Wash Park residents

Area aldermen and the Chicago Park District nee to be more responsive to the concerns of residents who surround Washington Park. For the past few years, ever since several privately-run summer festivals moved to the north end of the park, nearby residents have complained of unbearable noise, increased traffic congestion, litter and parking hassles.

A Washington Park Advisory Council meeting last week was supposed to offer solutions on a number of complaints about the festivals. But while residents packed the meeting hall, two senior park district officials who attended the March meeting refused to show up for the follow up last week. So any complaints fell on the ears of those unfamiliar with the problem.

The senior officials, Chief Operating Officer Jim Chronis and Director of Planning and Development Arnold Randall, a Hyde Parker, had promised to personally conduct the April meeting to address noise, traffic and safety complaints. Most residents around the north end of the park support the festivals but many have proposed that the be pushed farther into the park. Washington Park Advisory Council President Cecilia Butler wants to see the festivals pushed south of 55th Street.

Washington Park is divided between the 4th an 20th Wards, with the dividing line just north of 55th Street. Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4gh) has not publicly supported moving the festival grounds out of her ward and into Ald. Arenda Troutman's 20th Ward. Preckwinkle and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), whose ward does not include Washington Park, were present at last week's meeting. Troutman was missing from the last two meetings.

The Herald appreciates Hairston's advocacy on behalf of the residents, particularly her comments demanding the park district do its job. But at the very least we would like to see Troutman make an appearance at these meetings, as residents have asked repeatedly that the festivals be moved into her ward. We also wish that Chronis and Randall would live up to their promise and show up to these meetings in person to listen to the complaints of residents around Washington Park.

Some long-term solutions are being considered, such as a two-story parking garage south of the DuSable Museum of African American History and a trolley service between the garage and the festival grounds. That may calm parking woes. And one idea to redirect loud speakers into the park may decrease the amount of noise being pumped out to nearby homes this summer.

But with the summer beginning just one month from now, residents may have t face another three months of crowded streets, loud music and litter before the park district and the aldermen make some long-term compromises.


In the budget, there have been fund restorations or increases. see exact asks in the Parks Budget page.


The lagoon restoration was finished and dedicated September 2004. The work included design restoration, flow improvement, boardwalk approach, shore stabilizing plants, and planting of 250 trees and 799 shrubs. But is it being maintained at top condition? Well, they now say they will and have hired the right firms. Top

A Fountain of Time Basin Committee has started raising funds to go with the generous grants of the Save America's Treasures coalition, CPD, and University of Chicago. Visit the Basin page. Top

There was severe damage to trees - an astonishing c. 288 completely lost- in the park from early July 5th, 2003 early morning severe weather microburst. According to council president Cecilia Butler, the timing was especially bad since the 2/5ths of the park between 51st and 55th, King and Payne has just been designated an arboretum and the survey catalogue by Morton Arboretum was not complete before the storm struck. (The arboretum area was spared, but certainly not along Cottage Grove and much of the whole east half of the park.) Butler is quoted in the Herald as saying "This is one of the worst things that I know of ever to happen to [Washington Park]....We had a tree here, event the treekeepers at the Morton Arboretum didn't even know its origins....Now, I hope it's still alive." "We should mourn this, if only for a minute." Then Park District forester/arborist Brian Williquette promises the new plantings will be according to the historical Olmsted template. Mounds of chips were made out of the trunks using a mammoth grinder. Top

DuSable Museum expansion. The southeast corner of the park will be greatly reorganized with expansion of DuSable Museum of African American History into the historic Burnham-firm designed stables roundhouse. (The stables served the original Washington Park Race Track, which left when a mayor had the area voted dry about a century ago.) DuSable certainly needs the room. The DuSable, now in a $25 million capital and endowment campaign, received $10 million from the state at the behest of Senate president Emil Jones. It also received a Mac Arthur grant.

Museum to grow in 2007. Hyde Park Herald, November 17, 2004. by Mike Stevens

The DuSable Museum of African American History doubled in size Monday--at least theoretically.

The Chicago Park District handed museum officials a set of ceremonial keys to Washington Park's neighboring Roundhouse building Nov. 15, clearing the way for the museum's @25 million renovation of the historic stone building.

A $10 million state grant championed by state Senate President Emil Jones (D-14) made the expansion possible, DuSable CEO and President Antoinette Wright said. "To our elected officials local, state and federal, we thank you for bringing the bacon home," Wright said to Jones and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (d-1), who were among nearly 150 people on hand for the formal handoff.

In a bill being considered by Congress, Rush has earmarked $1 million for a proposed pedestrian skyway over 57th Street that would connect the Roundhouse expansion to the museum's main campus. "I thought about [Jones'] $10 million and my $1 million and the only thing I can think to say is, every little bit helps," Rush said. "This is just a down payment. we intend to get more."

After accepting a teddy bear from DuSable Museum founder Margaret Burroughs, Jones moved quickly to the problem of where to find the $12 million needed to finish the proposed restoration. "We in the state have done our job. All the major corporations that our community supports have got to step up to the plate," Jones said.

After years as a maintenance facility, the 61,000-square-foot park building will allow the museum to host larger traveling shows in addition to exhibiting more of it own collection. As it stands, space constraints relegate up to 70 percent of the museum's collection to storage.

On top of exhibition space, the Roundhouse will house research facilities and a reading room to expand onsite learning resources, DuSable's Director of Finance and Administration Michael Carter said. "[Today] if you came here an asked about Frederick Douglass we can tell you, but we can't show you," Carter said.

The former stable will also house a lunch room which officials hope will boost attendance because schools will no longer be forced to hustle students back to campus for their lunch hour. Wright anticipated the expansion will boost annual attendance by 60,000 visitors, which would push the attendance figures to well over 200,000 visitors a year.

Renovations are slated to begin spring 2005 with an eye to an 2007 opening. Fundraising will also go toward a $5 million endowment.


The fieldhouse and its adjacent water slide, famed Olympic sized pool (first in the city for African-Americans and it launched many famous swimmers and divers, tennis courts, playgrounds, and Refectory building are busy centers of activity in the park. The Refectory was in early park history a destination for the pleasure drivers; nearby was the Mall and picnic "apartments." Here also is the park/Garfield Blvd. flowery west entry, drought-stressed. Photos Gary Ossewaarde

Washngton Park fieldhouse
Water slide at Washington Park pool.
Washington Park tennis court, south of fieldhouse on King. East of this is playgrounds
West entry garden, Morgan and King. Gary Ossewaarde
Washington Park's famed  Olympic sized pool.
Another view of the pool.
Washington Park Refectory from east
The famed veranda o the Refetory
Washington Park Refectory from the north

Allison Davis Garden east of Fountain of Time, to be dedicated Sept. 17, 2005, reflects in text and signifying space upon many of the past and remaining tensions of the park and particularly that sector.
To Allison Davis Garden page.


Supporting documents are being prepared in the Park District for designation of Washington Park on the National Register of Historic Places.


[see more below on arboretum, visit Fountain of Time Basin page.

Park District give money to spruce up Wash Park

Hyde Park Herald, April 28, 2004. By Mike Stevens

The Chicago Park District handed washington Park more than a half million dollars last week for the restoration of the Fountain of Time and an arboretum.

The Saturday opening of the new arboretum, located off Ellsworth Drive and 55th Street, will mark a first for the city's parks. Roughly $50,00 donated from ComEd and the Morton Arboretum has transformed the wooded northwest section of the park into a showcase of trees favored by the Washington Pak designer Frederick Law Olmsted.

Aluminum signs on 53 tree species will present information on the various species, according to [then] park district Natural Resources director Shiryl MacMayon. "I think there is a great opportunity for accidental knowledge," said MacMayon. "[An arboretum is] a use of the park that we've never really tried before."

A windstorm that felled hundreds of trees last July left groves of ginkgo and oak trees in the new arboretum intact. At the time the arboretum location had already been picked, according to park officials. "Not a single tree in the arboretum went down," McMayon said. Some of the damaged trees served as mulch for 60 additional 6- to 10-year-old planted in the arboretum. After identifying all the species in the arboretum, which include oaks, elms, walnuts, crabapples and serviceberry, park officials selected trees close to existing trails and labeled them.

Washington Park is the first of three arboretums the lisle, Ill-based Morton Arboretum will help the park district establish. "The arboretums have more of a cultural and educational role." Edith Makre of the Morton Arboretum said. "Our branching out is a way of sharing our resource with other communities."

In addition to helping identify species, the Morton helped design signs and visitor brochures for Washington Park. They also paid for printing the brochures. A walking map in the brochure guides visitors through the arboretum on park trails.

The tour begins at 55th Street and Ellsworth drive with a "Tree of Heaven." Although considered a weed tree, this tree was one of Olmsted's favorite species, McMayon said. Brochures will be available at the Washington Park fieldhouse, 5531 S. Long Dr., as well as neighborhood schools.

To celebrate the opening, park district chief Timothy Mitchell will plant a black walnut tree in the arboretum at 10 a.m. Sat., May 1. Other opening day activities included tree tours, tree treasure hunts, and a performance by Djembe Drummers. Following the festivities, the park district needs volunteers to help in the park's annual spring cleaning. For more information, call 312 747-5039. Top


Visit the page on the new Washington Park Arboretum, dedicated May 1. Pick up a copy of the brochure at the fieldhouse and stroll the Olmsted woods. Top

The Park District with Com Ed funding has installed seven new signs explaining park history and ecology in the southern "natural" part of the park. One describes the origin of the South Side's monk parakeets. (more, links in Harold Washington Park.) Top

A battle has developed between East Indian and West Indian cricket players over field time, the Hyde Park Herald reported in May, 2004. A.J. Jackson, Area Manager in the Southeast Region, is quoted as saying the East Indians seek to exclude a West Indian squad front he four Washington Park cricket fields--the only public cricket fields in the city. The East Indians have played there for nearly 30 years and claim seniority. Jackson says the Park District does not want to be in the middle and the groups should share. Top

Lagoon Rehabilitation and the blue-green algae scare.

Most experts believe there is not a serious problem. The park district Department of Natural Resources reports in early 2005 that a recent test of fish turns up negative for toxins or presence of blue green algae.

At the March, 2003 advisory council meeting, the Park District described the lagoon project. Parts of the eastern lagoon east shore and western lagoon shores were rehabbed in 1999 and will not be touched. Main projects, to be completed this year, are nature education center and close up access at the north tip of the western lagoon and other close up experience areas on Bynum Island at the bridge and in the nature walk pools from a new fountain north of the eastern lagoon (by Seven Hills) to the eastern lagoon. Featured at these locales, and on the south shore of the eastern lagoon, are boardwalks. Bynum Island access will be universal. Several fishing piers and lots of boulders are included around the lagoons. A new structure substituting for the old boat house (but smaller, c 100 by 20) will have trellises for spring and fall vines. (A launch ramp may be added and educational programming is under consideration.) Many and more diverse wetland and edge plants will be added. A new water main will be run from 60th Street to the eastern lagoon and a force main will take water from the western lagoon east shore to the fountain and pools returning to the north shore of the eastern lagoon. Lawn panels northeast and west of the lagoons that flood will be re graded and drainage installed to return the water to the lagoons.

Areas were fenced off all year, including popular fishing spots on the south shore of the eastern lagoon and the west shore of the western lagoons and lawn areas including part of the Seven Hills. Council members gave their views at the June Park District board meeting.

A major problem in Washington lagoons is blue-green algae. Since the algae puts out serious toxins, the council has for some time been in discussion with the park district Department of Natural Resources to get the problem eradicated. See following (headline partly misleading) and a counter by Prof. Haselkorn.

Washington Park council warns lagoon should be closed

A science club trip turned deadly serious last summer when several young Hyde Park students detected a potentially hazardous blue-green algae in Washington Park's lagoon.

Following the youngsters' discovery, Albert Thrasher, the club's leader, alerted park officials. Some five months later, Thrasher--who is a Washington Park Advisory Council member--remains unsatisfied with the city's action and has called for the lake to be "quarantined" until the city conducts further tests. "This particular blue-green algae produces a poison," Thrasher said. "We need to alert [people]...if we make a mistake on something like this, it's not a minor issue."

Thrasher cited the mysterious death of a Wisconsin boy in July 2002. A coroner later linked the death to a toxin released by common blue-green algae, according to a newspaper account. The algae releases toxins after it blooms in the summer, leading council members to worry they will have a contaminated lagoon on their hands during the hottest days of the year.

Because there is a long tradition of fishing in the lagoon--which is restocked with perch and blue gill annually-- some expressed concerns that eating fish could prove dangerous if not deadly.

But officials from the Chicago Park District disagree. They say the scientific community remains divided about how dangerous the blue-green algae is, pointing to the same article that quotes an algae toxin expert who doubts the algae caused the Wisconsin boy's death.

Nonetheless, the district posted signs warning the lagoon contained blue-green algae and forwarded the matter to the city's health department. "If [something] is considered a health issue, we as an agency have to listen to the Department of Health," said Shirl McMayon, director of natural resources for the park district.

Chicago Department of Health lagoon water tests have detected the blue-green algae, known as Microsystis aeroginofa and its toxin Microcystin-toxin, according to Dr. Joe McCullough, the department's Director of Environmental Health.

"Drinking [contaminated] water has proved hazardous..people have gotten ill," said McCullough. But he added it would be difficult to drink enough of the water to get sick. McCullough acknowledged some fish tested contained toxins but added that the toxins generally accumulate in the fish's liver not in the meat.

"There has never been any evidence...of humans or animals suffering adverse health effects from eating fish that lived in waters that had this particular type of blue-green algae," McCullough said.

In spite of the assurances, Washington Park advisory council members demanded further studies at their last meeting, March 17. "We want the lagoon quarantined until they can test the water and fish," said Thrasher.

Park officials countered that they never hesitate to close beaches with dangerous e.coli levels, though closures cost the city thousands of dollars in lost revenue. "I trust they are treating the lagoons the same [as the beaches]," McMayon said.

The park district is putting the final touches on their three-year rehab of the lagoon. Park officials estimate only five percent of the work remains to be done.

...Representatives of the Chicago Health department will attend the next [WPAC] meeting, April 21.

The signs say:

No swimming. No wading. No drinking.
This lagoon contains blue green algae known to produce toxins that may cause skin irritation to humans and animals upon contact or have other more serious heath effects if ingested in large quantities.
In case of contact with lagoon water, wash skin with fresh water and soap. If rash occurs, contact appropriate healthcare personnel.


By Robert Haselkorn, Professor Emeritus, Biophysics, University of Chicago:

No need to prohibit fishing in Wash Park. Herald, April 21, 2004

I wish to comment on the article on the Washington Park lagoon contamination last summer with "blue-green algae"... My laboratory at the University of Chicago has been studying these organisms for over 30 years. In collaboration with a group in Helsinki, we have been studying the toxins produced by some strains of these bacteria.

My first comment is that there is no reason to panic. Very few stains, particularly those found around here, are actually capable of producing toxins. While toxin production by the strains that carry the genes for toxic synthesis is not well understood, some work in Switzerland has shown that at least three cloudless days are required. A bloom alone is not sufficient for the cells to produce the toxin.

There is no record of human deaths caused by these toxins. The most common victims are fish. There is no fear of animals or people being harmed by fish carrying one of the toxins, because a fish with a toxin is a dead fish. The toxin is a cyclic peptide that binds to and inhibits an enzyme called a protein phosphatase. The particular protein phosphatase targeted by microcystins, the most well-studied of the toxins, is in the cell compromising the microcirculation of the liver. That phosphatase is needed to remove phosphate from a subunit of intermediate filaments to allow them to polymerize. Without these filaments, the cells collapse and allow the tiny blood vessels in the liver to leak. Essentially, the intoxicated fish bleeds to death.

The bottom line is that there is no need to prohibit fishing in the lagoon. Even if there was some toxin released, which is highly unlikely, there would be none in any living fish. The only caution I would suggest would be to avoid collecting dead fish, if there are any.


Adventureland low ropes action/training course--a new kind of Park District program, one with growing outreach to schools, businesses, and more. On Bynum Island is a professionally-staffed "low ropes" facility for junior high and above. In a report at the March advisory council meeting, we also learned that other training and group activities are held there also for elementary kids and the team goes to schools, too. A similar indoor facility is being built in the newly acquired Harris YW at 62nd and Drexel.Team Building through Adventure Recreation for schools, teen and youth groups, camps, agencies, corporations, sports teams. Courses that engage the physical, cognitive, and social resources of each participant--challenges to break away from standard routines and problem solving and require cooperation, goal-setting, creativity, risk-taking, teamwork, communication, accountability, leadership. Through "Challenge by Choice" participants choose the amount of risk taken. Facilitators work one on one and with the group.

The courses are accessed via a climbing wall. A low sling rope is being acquired and a high rope and harness to go perhaps across the lagoon is under consideration. Able to accommodate up to 60 at present; minimum group size. Modest charge, more for corporate signups, and limited personal opportunity to use the climbing wall off hours (modest charge). Spring through fall. Adventure Recreation Programs director David Stephens, Reservationist Wesley Wiley, park supervisor Janie Collins. 312 747-6823. Top

Festivals in 2203 were moved to west of the Armory and even to King Drive, giving some relief to residents along Cottage, 51st, and Drexel Square--council members are pleased. In future years, a band shell is to be built in that area and festivals will be divided between that area and the non-natural part of Seven Hills (southeast part of the park). Moving some to where the circus was suggested.

Much of the Seven Hills and the Mall/lawn panels west of the western lagoon and other sections around the lagoons and parts of Bynum Island were closed off, but with "non obtrusive" fencing where possible.

Bandshell and festivals in the Seven Hills natural/passive part of the park?

The Council and its president Cecilia Butler have garnered 7,000 petition signatures for a band shell to host such fetes as Caribbean Fest, which the council would like to locate away from the residential areas and highly popular sports fields (that are often ruined by the festivals) to the south part of the park. Recently they called for relocating Grant Park's Petrillo Pavilion to Washington Park. Park District spokesman Michele Jones says there are no plans for such a move or to locate any band shell or festivals in the "passive" south part of the park.

From the October 12 2005 Herald. Ald., advisory council disagree over location of local festivals. By Tedd Carrison

At the urging of the Washington Park Advisory Council, Chicago Park District officials agreed to review a proposal to move the annual festivals to more isolated grounds south of 55th Street. During months of discussion, the park district had been reluctant to move the festivals and Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) has deemed the change unnecessary.

The advisory council has argued that the crowded festivals bring increased noise, litter and traffic to the residential area just north of the park and the events would cause fewer problems on its south side.

Anita Boyd, the park district's south region operations manager, said she and two other park officials, including Director of Planning and Development Arnold Randall, met with three members of the Washington Park Advisory Council in September. The group discussed moving the large festivals to the park's secluded southwest corner, away from the homes that line 51st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.

Boyd said nothing has been finalized and a "long process" of research and meetings are required before officials reach a decision. "It is a process and I don't have any idea how long it will take," said Boyd. "It is just a positive from my point of view that we are talking and trying to look at the big picture."

Washington Park Advisory Council President Cecilia Butler agreed. "I think they were open and understanding but what we did really was talk," she said.

Boyd said infrastructure changes that would accompany the move present one of the park district's biggest challenges. She said the alderman's office has been studying the moves's impact on street parking.

Preckwinkle said she has not been approached by the park district to study parking for next year but did contribute to new parking strategies for the past summer. She said changes made to the 2005 festivals resolved many of the residents issues and she sees no reason to move them. "I think the festivals work pretty well in their present locations," she said.

Butler criticized Preckwinkle's desire to keep the festivals north of 55th Street, the southern-most border of her ward, and praised park district superintendent Timothy Mitchell's willingness to discuss the move....


Washington Park festivals lead to parking and noise complaints

Hyde Park Herald, September 29, 2004. by Mike Stevens

Residents voiced complaints at this month's Washington Park Advisory Council meeting over parking hassles and noise levels following a summer of privately-run festivals on the north end of the park. Some of the residents said they planned to attend the Park District's Oct. 13 board meeting to lobby for a location change or a band shell for festivals held in the park.

Carol Hicks, who represents condominium owners in a 51st Street building bordering the park, worried short tempers and tight parking during large festivals, like this month's African Festival of the Arts, might lead to violence. "People are not going to take this [parking situation]," Hicks said. "On the North Side people issue permits to residents to park [during big events]. Why can't they do that here?"

Park District officials are looking into trolley service to ease parking woes during large festivals.

During the African Festival of the Arts over Labor Day weekend, which draws 20,000 people daily , La Veda Biffle flagged down a passing police car for assistance after discovering a pair of double-parked cars blocking her garage off 51st Street. After parking, Biffle complained that noise levels inside her 51st Street condominium made her feel like she was at he festival instead of her living room. "The stage was right out our window," Biffle said. To streamline the complaint process, Biffle joked that the park district's southeast region office phone number is programmed into her speed-dial.

The park's popularity and neighborhood population mean that parking will likely always be a problem for Washington Park, southeast region spokesman ReGina hayes said. "Parking is an issue when there are absolutely no events going on in the park," Hayes said.

A two-story garage in the southeast corner of the park is being considered to ease the park's normal summer parking shortage, Hayes said. Trolley service shuttling festival goers to and from remote parking lots might be used to lessen parking problems during events such as the multi-day African International Festival of Life and Ghana Festival, which draws nearly 10,000 people, Hayes said.

Hayes reported three noise complaints during the most recent festival and blamed these primarily on bands starting late on the festival's final day. "Every time we get concerns we try to address those and I think more concentration on noise abatement will help as we look toward next year," Hayes said.

Possibilities include setting up music stages backed by groups of trees to bounce sounds sway from 51st Street homes and into the park.

Washington Park advisory council members have complained for years that festivals tear up the grounds and disrupt baseball and softball players who pay for permits to us the park. Council president Cecilia Butler would like to see a permanent structure, like a band shell, built in the Seven Hills area of the park south of the DuSable Museum of African-American History...

Armed with a 2, 500 signature petition, Butler called on Park District officials earlier this summer to move th Petrillo band shell to Washington Park. The band shell hosted the Grant Park Symphony until this summer when they relocated one block north to the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion.

Park District spokesman Michele Jones said the larger capacity Petrillo band shell is needed downtown for popular long-running events like the Chicago Blues Festival an Taste of Chicago. "We don't have any plans for moving the Petrillo [to the Seven Hills are,] really, that is a passive area. Its always been intended as such," Jones said. Butler said she would accept a new bandshell as well.


Counter view: Washington Park's natural beauty enhances area. By Randi Doeker

Letter to Hyde Park Herald, March 30, 2005.

Surely there must be residents of the Washington Park neighborhood who value the beauty and serenity offered by the Seven Hills natural area of the park. The only voices I ever hear, however, are from the leaders of the park advisory council calling for the area to be plowed into a dead field for use as festival grounds.

On a regular basis, a WOPAC member formally requests that Chicago Park District commissioners eliminate the natural area from Washington Park. At one of the public meeting to create the park framework plan, we were told by some residents that they felt it as totally unacceptable to hold festivals on the north end of the park solely because it would be an inconvenience to baseball players about six times a year. There were very harsh words spoken at that meeting: We were told that the neighborhood residents felt the park district, by insisting that Washington Park have a natural area, was forcing onto South Siders the values of other Chicago neighborhoods.

Ironically, at that meeting and others. I listened as Washington Park resident complained because they feel that other neighborhoods, especially those on the north side, have nicer parks. What they don't seem to understand is that those Chicagoans value the low-activity areas of their neighborhood parks--they understand that nature areas enhance the neighborhood.

I hope that when the Chicago Park District staff returns in April to Washington Park to discuss the operation of the festivals... that more area residents are involved in the discussions and decisions. I hope that the local homeowners will appreciate that their property values will not improve if the seven Hills area is turned into a flat dusty field. Whatever the challenges of holding large events in the park, the long-term quality of life around Washington Park will not be improve by destroying the most beautiful areas of the park.

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Other. Strong requests were made to restore lamps at and improve maintenance of the ball fields and jogging paths. There is a strong program of fish stocking in the lagoons.

DuSable expansion, Davis Garden. The southeast corner of the park will be greatly reorganized with expansion of DuSable Museum into the historic stables roundhouse (Daniel Burnham). DuSable certainly needs the room. The DuSable, now in a $22 million capital campaign, received $10 million from the state at the behest of Senate president Emil Jones. It also received a Mac Arthur grant.

Also in under construction, east of the Fountain of Time,will be the Allison Davis Garden-- the Park District Board approved a contract with the University of Chicago for construction and maintenance. Most of the land from 56th to 59th and beyond will now be reopened to public use and the wall effect along Cottage Grove will be largely eliminated through removal of unhistoric trades shops to 57th and LaSalle, thus countering any effects of "institutional creep".

Meanwhile, the U of C Hospitals is contracting use of the Payne Drive lot for its employees. There is discussion of a two-story garage in the southeast corner to handle normal parking shortage (with shuttling to festivals and the fieldhouse) and perhaps help out DuSable and UC Hospitals.


by Gary Ossewaarde:

Brief history and prospect for Washington Park.

Washington is the west part of Frederick Law Olmsted's South Parks triad. Hyde Park founder Paul Cornell is to be thanked as much as anyone for the regional parks that surround our neighborhood on three sides and three neighborhoods to the west and southeast on one. Authorized in 1869 and started just before the Chicago Fire, the two dominating features were to be, in the south a pleasure boating lagoon set amidst "(seven) hills" and connecting via Midway Plaisance and future Jackson Park's lagoons to Lake Michigan, and, in the north half, a Great Green or Meadow for sports and getting away from dehumanizing and unhealthful urban surroundings. The south part reflected the sublime, suggesting Lake Michigan and providing for the solitary ramble in nature (reconstructed, of course--no one wanted to conserve the "boring prairie-and-swamp" typical of flat Chicago.) The north part was meant as a destination the wealthier driving set from the then-quite far removed city. Yet, Olmsted and the city fathers wanted people from the various social classes mixing and learning to live in harmony. Still another concept that would increasingly take over much of the park, but was anticipated from the start, is provision of densely-active activity spots that were expected to become increasingly necessary as the city moved down the co-developed boulevards and then new neighborhoods engulfed the space all around the parks. The north open green is as dry as the original prairie was wet. Executer of the plan, Cleveland had to constantly fight demands by the Commissioners to build the park quickly--as with mature trees that wouldn't have lasted long. The park drives were designed deliberately in a vast figure eight, in sweeping curves (good for the soul vs. the tyrannical, speed-promoting city grid). Ironically, many in the city were reluctant to support these parks at all, thinking them just pleasure domes for the rich and ploys to increase real estate values for developers.

Over the years, Washington Park did become a center of activity for the wealthy and middle class and many extraordinary features were added, many by Daniel Burnham and other noted architects. Features on the west side include the lagoon boat house (since demolished) and fishing pier and nearby Mall and the adjacent big picnic and company outing "apartments", a nature trail, children's arts and drama building and skating pond and the grand caretaker's cottage--almost all since gone. In the center-west south of Morgan is the grand Refectory by Burnham, once headquarters to the South Parks Board and boasting an ice-cream factory as well as a restaurant. On the east side were Daniel Burnham-designed Stables with its rotunda, the later park headquarters building (now the central building of DuSable Museum), and The Ramble toward 51st, demolished in 1928 for the huge Armory. In the north center is the vast Meadow--which really did have sheep. A set of running and riding trails was built. Stables, laundries and more were developed for the driving set. Some amenities, such as the Conservatory north of the present DuSable Museum, proved expensive and redundant of other facilities and were torn down after a few years. The original developers, Olmsted and then Cleveland (told to build cheap after the Fire and during the depression of the 1870s) deplored the tenancy to fill parts of the park with artificial topiaries and dense formal gardens, much inspired by the Beaux Arts and City Beautiful movements after the World's Fair.

A major period of intense development was in anticipation of the expected overflow crowd for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. By this time the boulevards were being intensely developed and were park-spun-out from Washington park as well as lures for the developers who by the start of the new century were developing the neighborhoods north, west, and south of the park. Estates in northwest Kenwood were quickly developed for the middle and working classes and the property around the University of Chicago filled in. Built shortly after the Fair was the Conservatory and a set of topiary gardens that offended Olmsted but fit the desire for fancy artifice and intensive use facilities. Expensive to operate, the Conservatory was gone by 1920. During these early years into the 1920s, Washington Park was the most pictured Chicago park in postcards and stereopticon cards (See stunning examples now on display at the Hyde Park Historical Society).

New neighborhoods appeared overnight after Chicago annexation 1889 into the early years of the century, a mix of grand houses and virtual shacks, heavily Irish working class. By the teens, it was the home of such as novelist William Farrell's young Studs Lonigan, who was mesmerized by the park's natural areas per the old bucolic idea and used the north as part of the "sports clubs," wreaking continuous violence, first against other whites then blacks as they started to appear in the park even before neighborhood turnover. Tensions rose, especially as the great migration of African Americans began and Washington park began to be perceived as the park ( the only on) blacks on the South Side could go. Blacks had scarce housing but jobs in the stockyards during World War I. After the War, they were trolleyed into the stockyards through job-poor Irish neighborhoods. The park was quickly one focus for the 1919 Race Riot even though it started at the 12th Street Beach. The Irish may have thought they won, and had expensive, beloved assets, including the parish churches they did not want to leave. But turnover took place quickly north and west of the park, in the 20s, last in the strip southwest of the park, changing who used and what the perception was of the park (indeed the meaning of "the black park) and presaging disinterment. Yet changeover of certain facilities that were really private uses in the park--facilities for archery, lawn bowling, and riding clubs--occurred decades later, in the 50s and 60s.

By the time Lorado Taft's Fountain of Time was created from concrete in the early 1920's, neighborhoods to the west were in full change and Washington became one of the first parks after Union to welcome and build facilities for African-Americans. Part of this included the olympic-sized outdoor pool built in the 30's, something for the African-Americans, but the only such pool for a long time. There is a disjunction in "historic memory" about this pool--pictures from after its construction c. 1936 show African Americans using it, but present and former residents swear they were excluded in the early years. Aquatic sports did definitely became a tradition at the park, leading many African Americans to pursue excellence in swimming. Changes in public tastes and expectations for their parks continued to lead to new facilities--tennis and a fieldhouse that still boasts some of the best craft shops (i.e. wood) and sports programs in the parks despite recent deep budget cuts. Of course, tastes ebb and flow--there once was a solid line of tennis courts along King Drive from 51st to 60th.

A major tradition that started in 1930 as the park was becoming more African-American was the Bud Billiken Parade. Started by Robert Abbott and his Chicago Defender as a children's outing that provided (and showed that the black community could afford to) give kids a glorious day, the parade and picnic during the horrific years of the Depression, gradually became the largest parade in the country. At first it ended in the northwest corner and had to include special arrangements for protection by the police (who often looked the other way on attacks on and house bombings of blacks). Later the picnic area became and remains the pool-Refectory-mall picnic area.

Another feature of the 30s was that the park became the Bughouse Square of the South Side. Swarms of orators, white Communist recruiters, labor and civil rights recruiters, preachers and others descended on the park in the weekends. Some park users listened to, others scoffed or laughed at ignored or resented the intruding cacophony. The park was also the focus of many South Side artists, mainly part of the left-wing social realist artist movement.

In the 1940s the neighborhoods around the park became a different kind of racial battleground, including suits that broke the restrictive covenants that in effect made the park a barrier after the 1919 Riot. Turnover south of the park all the way to Jackson Park happened in the 50s while Hyde Park and Kenwood to the north integrated but underwent wrenching Urban Renewal. As new spaces opened up, much of the African-American middle class moved out of the neighborhoods around the park.

Both neglect and encroachment grew. The latter earlier included the massive, classical National Guard Armory that replaced the ramble and park district yards and shops that grew. By the late 70's, the lagoons were case evidence in the class action suit alleging park district discriminatory neglect of South Side parks. Programs were pared, facilities were torn down or fell into disrepair, the park was generally considered unsafe, and the wall of structures along Cottage Grove seemed to wall the University of Chicago and Hyde Park off from the park and neighborhoods to the west.

Part of the north end of the park was sold to the Board of Education for Walter Dyett school (named for a famed blues musician, band leader, and teacher in the area), whose recreation center later ceased to be open to the park using population despite promises. (Pool use has been partially restored.)

In recent years, after settlement of the 1982 federal case, much has turned around. The administration building is now the center of a vibrant DuSable Museum of African American History. (Yes, an "encroachment", but so are the other museums in parks.) The lagoons were improved in 1999 and more extensively in 2003. See above. (However, the lagoons were drained without a wildlife rescue and blue-green algae and other algae is a serious problem .) Bynum Island in the lagoon (once a now-considered inappropriate "Adventureland" and now again both natural and with a advanced training center--see above) and part of the Seven Hills are becoming a more natural and wildlife-friendly area. DuSable has won the race to (rehabilitate) the Stables. The Alison Davis Garden was built in the southeast section. Cricket, 51 softball teams and basketball are going strong. Many still hope that in some way riding will come back. Also, many hope the Armory will be developed for programming and community use--whose use is a big bone of contention. The park is safer, although often not at night!! and teens from many school and gang territories use the park. (for over a century gangs that harassed each other other times came together weekends to play each other at softball.

Framework planning looked at many possible improvements for the park. It did not reach consensus on a host of items and is considered by many a top-down document. A continuing obstacle to the park is the Morgan/Garfield east-west throughway, at best poorly designed. As long as big festivals are held in this park and the District will not/cannot allocated resources--and people don't assume responsibility--, it will be hard to keep up with trash and upkeep needs.

Many Hyde Parkers have never visited the park, but others use Washington Park for walking, running and team games. Despite University efforts at engagement, distrust remains high, not helped by the Hospitals turning the backs of its facilities on Cottage Grove. Perhaps Washington Park can become more a bridge and commons, as envisioned by Olmsted, and less a barrier for the neighborhoods of the mid-south side. Supervisors of Midway and Washington are making sure that kids go back and forth between the two sets of facilities. Washington was very heavily hit by budget cuts, but several programs such as adventureland team building are increasing, and interesting synergy is being created with Midway and the under-construction Harris YW facility in northwest Woodlawn. Three aldermen and a diverse and knowledgeable advisory council are watching and recommending for this park (although park advocates often find it vexing dealing with three sets of officials). See what they said at the 2004 South Side budget hearing, in Council, above. Reaching consensus over future development of the park has been difficult; many scratch their heads at proposals in the Framework Plan approved by the District board in 2004.