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Chicagoans enjoy wide open space of city parks

Chicago’s parks west of Lake Shore Drive reopened Monday as well as many of the public libraries.

People spend their morning in Lincoln Park, one of the parks that were re-opened to the public on June 7, 2020 after Mayor Lori Lightfoot closed parks over COVID-19 safety concerns.
People spend their morning in Lincoln Park, one of the parks reopened to the public Monday.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Carly Jenkins cradled her slumbering 7-week-old daughter, Delilah, and savored the beauty of a perfect spring morning.

“It’s awesome,” said Jenkins, who’d walked to Lincoln Park Monday with Delilah and Olivia, her 3-year-old, from their home in the Old Town neighborhood. “Your entire mood changes. You’re finally feeling a little bit hopeful.”

There was a lot of that Monday, as the city’s parks west of Lake Shore Drive reopened, as well as many of the public libraries. But Maggie Daley Park and Millennium Park, which would normally be teeming with shrieking children at this time of year, both remained closed.

Jenkins said being in the wide open space of Lincoln Park was a good way to “test the waters.”

“The big areas are great because you can spread out,” she said. “When they shut them off, it confined you to the walkways, and that made them really jam-packed.”

Jenkins and her daughters were planning a picnic of avocado toast, satsumas and other snacks. Elsewhere in the park, a young couple stole a kiss, before riding away on Divvy bikes. Some sat on blankets reading.

Geoffrey Burton, who is in his 60s and lives in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, confessed he’d been coming to the park all along, despite the prohibition against it. He said he and his neighbors paid little attention to the mesh fence put up to stop people from venturing inside.

“It was the biggest waste of money you could possibly imagine, trying to keep people out,” Burton said.

As he gazed at the cracked, weedy dark-brown earth where flowers would typically be blooming, he said, “For the money they spent on that damn fence, (the city) could have hired some part-timers to put the plants in.”

Two Families in swan boats coast along in the Humboldt Park Lagoon In Humboldt Park, Chicago, Monday June 8, 2020. According Maggie Szot, and employee at the rental station, the amount of people renting swan boats has increase steadily since Saturdays opening. The majority of those renting have been families with children. The city of Chicago has reopened parks west of Lake Shore Drive.
Two families in swan boats coast along in the Humboldt Park Lagoon on Monday.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Herman Phillips, 82, was at the Jackson Park driving range Monday taking his first swing at a golf ball in two years. He said he’d spent the last month in the hospital dealing with heart issues.

“The only thing missing is a little shade,” he said.

Then he whacked the golf ball some 200 yards down the range.

“I’m thankful to be here at my age. Everything else is just secondary,” the Far South Side resident said.

Warren Smith, 66, who lives in Hyde Park, had a new-found appreciation for the outdoors after so many weeks of being cooped up inside.

“I don’t know if people have noticed this, but since everybody has been off of work and factories have been closed, the sky is much bluer, the air is so much cleaner and I haven’t suffered from my usual springtime allergies,” he said.

Not everyone was outside, and with temperatures climbing into the low 90s Monday, air-conditioned libraries — those that were open — offered some relief from the heat.

Nancy McDaniel, 73, of Lincoln Park, stopped by her neighborhood library branch to drop off some books and to see some familiar faces.

“I had two books to return, and even though (the library) kept extending the due date, I felt so guilty,” she said. “I was really eager to get (a book) that touched my soul.”

Robert Seid, 72, stooped by the branch to drop off some books and say hello to the staff.

“I wanted to thank them for coming back to work,” Seid said.

Ken Davis (center, in orange), 60, plays golf in Jackson Park, one of the parks that were re-opened on June 7, 2020 after Mayor Lori Lightfoot closed parks over COVID-19 safety concerns.
Ken Davis, 60, (wearing an orange shirt) watches his shot Monday at the Jackson Park driving range.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times