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Chicago Park District pushing ahead on controversial golf course

Beau Wellington of TGR Design, shows the restructure of Jackson and South Shore parks in Chicago, on Wednesday Jan. 31, 2018. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

Despite not having the money for its golf course merger, the Chicago Parks District and Tiger Woods’ design firm unveiled new designs for the Jackson and South Shore Parks golf courses.

Beau Welling, a senior consultant at TGR Design, presented the updates to plans released in June at the South Shore Cultural Center Wednesday night.

Those initial plans created the basis for the update, which still features a single 18-hole, par-70 course that’s a combination of the 18-hole Jackson Park course and the 9-hole, par-3 South Shore course. The designs show it will also feature a 6-hole short course.

The major changes include additions to natural acreage throughout the course — jumping from 5.5 acres to nearly 12 acres — the addition of a lake near Marquette Drive, as well as a new pedestrian entrance to the cultural center at 67th Street.

The updated plan also shows the relocation of the golf pavilion from the northwest corner of the park to the center of the golf course. There will also be a special event driveway added to make exiting the South Shore Cultural Center easier.

Welling said they’re still trying to figure out a way to fit the driving range into the framework of the course.

Natural land areas will be preserved during the redesign of golf plans at Jackson and South Shore parks in Chicago. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

Chicago Park District Supt. Mike Kelly said that the district as well as Woods’ firm are “listening and trying to navigate everyone’s interests.”

The redesign comes after 10 formal planning meetings that drew over 1800 community members since the June unveiling. At those meetings, Kelly said he heard three things: a “community clamoring for change, a need for community feedback, and ‘slow down.’ ”

The updates are a reflection of that.

“I need community’s support. Likewise, I need donor support,” Kelly said. “It is our intention that this will be a privately fundraised golf course and that it will be something that will be supported by the community.”

A rendering of the updated golf course plans. | Chicago Park District

The plan to revamp and merge the two golf courses was OK’d last January by the park district’s board of commissioners.

Avid golfer Osekre Hoes, who has taught the sport at Burnham Woods for four years, is “impressed” by the changes so far.

“I consider Jackson Park my home course and I think it can bring professional tournaments here, which is good for the city and for the South Side,” Hoes said.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) addresses the community meeting on golf plans at Jackson and South Shore parks in Chicago. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

Despite the updates, community concerns, largely related to the nature sanctuary, funding and saving trees, persisted.

“We’re concerned about how the decision was made,” said Anne Holcomb, chair of the community group E.T.H.O.S, which focuses on the environment and transportation among other things. “Before cooking up this golf course idea, they should’ve done more to ask what the community wanted in a park. Even people who are pro-golf course want to know what will happen with the sanctuary.”

Kelly said roughly 3.5 acres of the natural sanctuary will remain, but there’s “no doubt about” trees needing to be removed.

The timeline is still in question and so is the need for any review processes — changes to Jackson Park have already triggered a federal review. Kelly said the park district will “follow whatever process we need to” should the changes require review.

Golf routing plan updated.