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EDITORIAL: South Side golf course plan full of holes

The Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary next to South Shore Beach in Chicago. A plan to create a championship golf course there would require that the sanctuary be moved. | Tom McNamee/Sun-Times

Tiger Woods might love it. Barack Obama, too.

But we have no idea whether a proposed professional-caliber golf course on Chicago’s South Side would be good for the city — and the people pushing for it don’t know either.

A scheme to tear up and combine two Park District courses, Jackson Park and South Shore, and create a single big and fancy course, like the ones you see on TV, came out of the blue in the last year or two. Now it’s being rushed to the finish line in classic Chicago style, with final decisions and ground-breaking scheduled before anybody knows the score.

Call us naive, but we’d like to believe that ordinary people, not the elite, come first in this town. If so, this project will be slowed down. Because, honestly, nobody knows nothing.

OPINION

Nobody has done a proper study. Nobody has surveyed the people of the community. Nobody has made a convincing case that the people of the adjacent neighborhoods want this thing, or that it would be an economic boon.

Nobody has guaranteed that the typical Park District golf duffer still could afford to play there. Nobody has eased suspicions that this is nothing more than a give-away to the future Obama Presidential Center, which also will be located in Jackson Park, or to wealthy suburbanites and the golfing elite.

Signs marking the Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary tucked into a corner of the Chicago Park District’s South Shore Golf Course.

Nobody has nailed down how much this would cost the taxpayers of Chicago, who would have to pay for closing roads, building underpasses and making shoreline improvements. Nobody has shown convincingly that this would not destroy a butterfly and bird sanctuary that is as lovely and restful as anything to be found along the Indiana or Michigan dunes.

When the Sun-Times Editorial Board met recently with the director of the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance and other supporters of the championship course, we noticed two things: They were golfers, not fully authorized representatives of the affected communities. And they were vague about everything.

The Park District has set a deadline of October to create a final framework for the plan, and the Golf Alliance hopes to see construction begin as soon as weather permits in the new year. But on this one, we’re with the Friends of the Parks, which has called on the Alliance and the Park District to slow down, do a better job on their homework and make a better case.

We’re also with Stephen Lewis, a golfer we met out on the 8th fairway at the South Shore course on Thursday. It was a glorious evening, the setting sun washing the course in gold, and Lewis said he worries about losing what he’s got.

“I went to this one meeting they had, and it became pretty clear I wasn’t going to learn anything,” said Lewis, who lives in Calumet Heights. “Everybody had a lot of questions about playing golf, going to the beach, walking along the shoreline and attending different events, about barbecuing, those kind of things. We could lose all that.”

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