Way past time for city to spiff up long-neglected Jackson Park

Before the city and the Obama Foundation pour millions into the Obama Center, they need to do maintenance on the park.

SHARE Way past time for city to spiff up long-neglected Jackson Park
A classic Jackson Park pavilion stands near East Marquette Drive. An SUV smashed into the structure, which has long been neglected

A classic Jackson Park pavilion stands near East Marquette Drive. An SUV recently smashed into the structure, which has long been neglected

Anthony Vazquez | Sun-Times

Thank you for running the editorial on the golf course shelter building, crumbling away in Jackson Park.

Sadly, this is only one of more than a dozen long-term maintenance issues that trouble not just buildings in Jackson Park, but the park’s entire lakeshore. Please take a look at the crumbling step-stone revetments at Promontory Point and LaRabida Hospital. Yet they are pouring millions of dollars into a breakwater, designed and built for the benefit of yachtsmen, not the public. Note the women’s comfort station, dating from the Columbian Exhibition — closed. Also the comfort station at 6200 S. Stony Island, next to the park’s running track — closed.

The Darrow bridge has been closed going on 10 years. The 63rd Street beach house has maintenance problems, and the historic Coast Guard Station appears to be abandoned, in need of repairs. Finally, the most important building in the park, the field house, is outgrown and dilapidated. Built in the early 1950’s, it has only the one gymnasium. The field house has been (notably) left out of the Obama Center plans. 

Yes, before the city and the Obama Foundation pour millions of dollars into the center, they need to do some maintenance on this park. 

Ross Petersen, former president, Jackson Park Advisory Council

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South Side vs. North Side parks

Evidently, South Siders owe a debt of gratitude to the Jeep SUV driver who inadvertently brought needed attention to the crumbling condition of the Jackson Park Pavilion by crashing into it. As the Sun-Times wrote in an editorial, it was already the victim of not-so-benign neglect by the Chicago Park District. Many structures in Jackson Park, as the editorial said, “are in need of critical attention and repairs.”

Washington Park is the next nearest park. An instantly visible eyesore there is a crumbling caretaker’s cabin last repaired in hopes of hosting the 2016 Olympics. Now its roof is slowly collapsing. It should be fixed or demolished. By contrast, every park along the lake, from Grant Park northward, is kept in pristine condition. Why the questionable contrast? 

Old-timers can recall that a federal discrimination lawsuit had to be filed in 1982, accusing the park district of under-spending on South Side parks and using the funds on the North Side. A 1983 consent decree required equalized spending. Is the park district quietly violating that decree? 

The Sun-Times editorial notes a 2018 South Lakefront Framework Plan that calls for several other “big-ticket improvements for Jackson Park.” Among them, only the outer harbor breakwater has been completed.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has inherited these upkeep failures. While her options have been limited by the pandemic, the ball is in her court.

Ted Z. Manuel, Hyde Park

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