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Riot Fest claims damage to Humboldt Park repaired, preventive measures in place

Riot Fest released “before” and “after” photos Monday in an attempt to undercut a local alderman’s claim that damage to Humboldt Park caused by heavy rains and large crowds at last year’s festival had not yet been repaired.

Five days after Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said he wants the three-day festival evicted from Humboldt Park, Riot Fest founder Michael Petryshyn said festival organizers have already invested $152,000 in the park restoration project with $30,000 in further improvements on the way.

Maldonado did not attend any of the “multiple walk-throughs” with Chicago Park District supervisors and project managers, Riot Fest said. But the Park District has “expressed approval of the progress made thus far,” Petryshyn said, noting that “ball fields are now green and approved for use” by spring leagues.

“Riot Fest has delivered everything promised and more in an effort to correct damage from festivalgoers during a major rain event the first day of the fest, as well as to generally improve the park for residents to enjoy,” Riot Fest said in the release.

The before-and-after photos appear to underscore the point.

They show a trash-strewn, puddle-filled, mud-fest of a field immediately after the September 2014 festival and a manicured field taken just days ago with a baseball diamond in the background. The show-and-tell also includes seven photos of what festival organizers call “non-Riot Fest-related damage” to Humboldt Park that includes puddles, mud, tire tracks and patches of burned-out grass.

The seven photos show areas of the park that have had drainage problems for years — long before Riot Fest put down roots in Humboldt Park, the press release said. The problems have been exacerbated by “improper disposal of grease into park drains by truck vendors, resulting in major clogs of sand, gravel and grease that coagulates into a cement-like mass,” the festival said.

Going forward, Riot Fest is “preparing plans and dedicating additional resources” to make certain the 2014 damage will “never be repeated,” organizers said.

<small><strong>Ald. Roberto Maldonado says his mind is made up on Riot Fest. | Sun-Times File Photo</strong></small>
Ald. Roberto Maldonado says his mind is made up on Riot Fest. | Sun-Times File Photo

Those plans include having a landscaping contractor onsite before, during and after the festival so damage can be immediately addressed instead of waiting until weeks after the event.

Other changes include: keeping the drainage system in and around the festival grounds cleared and maintained; modifying the Riot Fest layout to maximize open space and paved surfaces; and adding more protective fencing, ground cover, mulch and surfaces that can “stand up to the wear” and tear of a “large-scale event.”

“Sometimes, you have to directly look at yourself and ask, `How can I do better?’ What we’ve done in the past is just not good enough. Is there a better process currently not being implemented?. . . Yes, there is,” Petryshyn was quoted as saying in the press release.

“We learned a valuable lesson this year. Moving forward, we must have our Chicago Park District-approved landscaper on-site with us from load-in to load out. We need to get ahead of any issues and start repairs immediately.”

In the future, Petryshyn said, the Riot Fest Foundation’s concerns will not be confined to “reseeding and maintaining” Humboldt Park.

The foundation’s job will be to “raise funds to help fix infrastructure issues within the park” and plug the gap caused by state and city budget cuts, he said.

“The Riot Fest Foundation will certainly take on that project with the main goal of beautifying the park,” the founder said.

Maldonado said the before-and-after photos are “fine and dandy,” but there is “no way that 100 percent of the damage” has been restored. More important, the alderman said his mind is made up.

“We don’t want to put ourselves in the same situation for next year. They’re asking for nine days to close the streets before the fest so they can do a much better setting up of the park. That means almost two weeks of patrons of the park not having access to it. That’s not something the community is willing to tolerate,” Maldonado said.

“This community has spoken very loud and clear. They have decided Riot Fest is too big to come to this large, family-oriented park. Over the years, they have made many promises and they have fallen short. If they claim they are good neighbors, where were they last year when all of their management left the day after and flew to Denver because they were having a big problem in that venue?”

A spokeswoman for Riot Fest pointed out that “the petition to allow Riot Fest its permits now has more signatures than Maldonado had votes in the last election.”