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EDITORIAL: Chopping of Jackson Park trees related to Obama Center bad form

Cut trees in Jackson Park, across from the Hyde Park Academy High School. | Rick Majewski/For the Sun-Times.

The Chicago Park District jumped the starter’s pistol in Jackson Park.

Bad form.

Last week was not the time to cut down trees and dig up baseball fields to make way for a project related to the Obama Presidential Center, as the Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet first reported.

The optics, as they say, look terrible.


Everything appears to be on track for the Obama Center, which we support, in Jackson Park. And let’s be clear: the park district’s premature action doesn’t detract one bit from the potential upsides of a new “museum campus” for our city, with the new Obama Center just a stone’s throw from the Museum of Science and Industry.

The Obama Center is a much-needed opportunity to spread a big pot of Chicago’s development wealth to the South Side. And it will be the first presidential center located in a heavily African-American urban neighborhood.

But hold your horses, park district, until the City Council votes on the plan, as early as next month, and a federal environmental review is complete later this year. There’s no need to go messing around with Jackson Park just yet.

Disrespecting the process only gives strength to Protect Our Parks Inc., a tiny, once-defunct group that suddenly found enough life in May to try and derail the Obama Center with a specious 11th-hour lawsuit.

A judge put the brakes on that suit when the park district and the city argued it was “premature,” given that the City Council had not yet voted on the plan. But now the group has grounds to go back to court, claiming that promises to hold off on construction were made in “bad faith,” given the downed trees and demolished baseball fields.

The ball fields and trees are being removed to make room for construction of a track that’s being displaced by the Obama Center.

Questions remain about the Obama Center. How much, for one, will it really cost taxpayers? But we see no deal-breakers, so long as the development process is respected.

President Obama was known as “no-drama Obama.”

The same should be said about the Obama Center.

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