Chicago will soon have a new mayor. At this renaissance moment, we have an extraordinary opportunity to throw out Chicago’s old and worn playbook based on backroom deals, and to assemble a new one based on equity, justice and transparency.
Here’s an example happening right now: Despite community opposition, the misguided, top-down designation of the eastern end of the Midway Plaisance — a historic park designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted — as a “replacement” for parkland taken for the Obama Presidential Center continues its slow crawl forward.
The Chicago Park District notified nearby residents of its application to the Chicago Plan Commission to be heard at its April 20 meeting at 10 a.m. The park district’s intent is to use the Midway site to fulfill the city’s legal responsibility to replace recreational park space lost in adjacent Jackson Park.
The application includes a proposal to reconfigure that portion of the Midway by draining an existing wetland and installing water-diverting piping to try to replicate its natural functions, and by constructing an expansive, universally accessible playground as the central feature.
We believe the City of Chicago and the park district need to reverse course — to reclaim their responsibility to protect and enhance Chicago’s public parks by choosing a different location for the required replacement parkland. This choice could provide new parkland in a neighborhood that lacks adequate access to open space.
Transform wetland for sustainable, low-maintenance use
At a time when many mature trees in Jackson Park have been removed and when alarming predictions about the accelerating rate of climate change continue to escalate, environmental priorities should be paramount. The Midway Plaisance Advisory Council has endorsed an alternative plan to incorporate the existing wetland into a space landscaped for sustainable, low-maintenance use and centered on the restored Cheney-Goode Memorial, the first monument (1932) to women erected in any Chicago park, which has been long neglected and is overdue for attention.
We heartily support the goal of the park district to serve Chicago’s special-needs community with an ambitious and innovatively-designed playground. However, the existing parkland at the eastern tip of the Midway …
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