Crusader staff report
Obama Library officials, look out. Jackson Park Watch is now an official watchdog organization to protect the neighborhoods surrounding the 500-acre park near Lake Shore Drive.
While the Obama Foundation moves forward with its plan to build a $500 million presidential library and center, Jackson Park Watch is preparing to arm itself with attorneys and experts to protect and advance the interests of residents in Hyde Park, Woodlawn and South Shore.
The group has nailed a “fiscal sponsorship” agreement with the Friends of the Parks organization, allowing Jackson Park Watch to incorporate as a non-profit and solicit tax deductible contributions.
The group will use the money to hire attorneys and experts to assess changes in Jackson Park as foundation officials seek to close several roads and build the presidential center and a $30 million championship golf course designed by golfing legend Tiger Woods.
Led by Hyde Park residents and co-presidents Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid, the organization aims to flush out back room deals and achieve transparency in political and business decisions that will impact Jackson Park. Jackson Park Watch is pushing to stop top-down decisions by including meaningful community input on major changes to the park.
Group leaders are concerned about two projects that will shape Jackson Park’s future. They oppose the proposed two-story, above ground garage that Obama Foundation wants to build at the eastern end of the Midway Plaisance on Stony Island. They are also opposed to the closures of Cornell Drive between 59th and 63rd streets.
The other project that concerns Jackson Park Watch is the merging of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses that will create a $30 million champion golf course. The park district hopes the public-private project will lure a major PGA tournament, but the project has been criticized for lacking transparency and community input. Jackson Park Watch demands detailed overall budgets for proposed projects and a breakdown of funding sources for the project.
The group’s development into an organization comes as Chicago Park District officials seek to fine tune their South Lakefront Framework Plan. Area residents in and around Jackson and South Shore Parks will have up until early next year to provide feedback on the current conditions of the parks and things they would like to be included in the new South Lakefront Framework Plan.
The plan is an updated version of the 1999 framework plan. It includes Jackson Park, Washington Park, and the South Shore Cultural Center.