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The Parks Committee of HPKCC

This page brought to you by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Parks Committee, and HPKCC's website, Join the Conference! Contact the Parks Committee Chair:, attn. Gary Ossewaarde or

Visit parks synopsis and news in the new website of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference- click Home or from outside type Visit the home navigating page of the whole site, Hyde Park Record by typing

Board members: Gary Ossewaarde (chair), George Davis, Timika Hoffman-Zoller, Gail Isenberg, Jack Snapper.
Non board members: Cecilia Butler, Mark Granfors, Stephanie Franklin, Frances Vandervoort- more welcome!


Mission and areas of attention of the Parks Committee

The Parks Committee of HPKCC works with local park advisory councils and city-wide advocacy and interest groups to

Nichols Park Wildflower Meadow

Since the Conference is the nonprofit umbrella for the Nichols Park Advisory Council, and formerly for LILAC (concerned with the Metra embankment), the Parks Committee has special relationships with these entities (maintaining a web presence about Nichols Park, for example). We also maintain databases and do considerable work with the Jackson Park Advisory Council, including maintaining a web section with copious maintenance even though the revitalized PAC has since created its own website, increasingly populated from our work and pages.


Some current common issues are park cutbacks, trash collection and maintenance breakdowns, ensuring ongoing community input in park/school agreements and in planning for new facilities, encouraging avenues for community participation and volunteerism such as through the Hyde Park Garden Fair including identifying beautification projects for the latter.

Localized issues of area-wide importance have include proposals for major changes in Jackson Park, the future of the Dyett School and its related pool, rec area, and gardens; Promontory Point even though that issue simmers; lake shore reconstruction (successfully completed with consideration for the parks); access and amenities including taking full advantage of the Chicago Plays! playground rebuilding program; crime and policing; communications incl. with the school, facilities; natural areas policies and a sound balance between wildlife and human opportunties and parks at teaching resources.


Recent years

The committee met as an invited breakout section October 15 2011 as a part of HPKCC's Convocation of Area Civic Nonprofits; likewiseonvened March 10, 2012. Major parks focus at the time were the integrity of Washington and Elm parks. Meanwhile we continue to monitor the whole scope via communications with each other and Park District staff (and meetings) and cross-attending each others PAC meetings and meetings of and consultations with Friends of the Parks. Chairman Gary Ossewaarde- reach via or

From report by Parks Chair Gary Ossewaarde:

Parks. The group discussed individual parks and councils progress and challenges- and found they have many in common. Much is being done, and there is much energy for several of the parks, in part because there is less head-butting and more collaborating with the Park District. It's kind of a "good era." There is a jurisdictional problem with public officials, coming and going and boundaries shifting-- so many people to deal with, and if a key person should not be interested [there is stalemate].
Communications among park-interested people was considered larger than any one group or council can handle-- we have to support one another and seek additional allies, such as placing noisy festivals (i.e. in the east part of Washington Park) so they are not a nuisance to the neighborhood, or handling proposed changes in or at parks such as road closures along Cottage Grove.
Recommendations: continue to convene and expand the "parks table" regularly;
have an email tree, to share information and events and assemble help quickly.

From the Facilitator's report:

General Comment: There is general consensus that the situation around parks in the
area is better than it was a few years ago and that things are stepping up. However,
there are jurisdictional issues due to multiple aldermanic districts.

  • Reach out and gain support from other organizations involved in the parks that
    are experiencing similar issues to enable greater interaction.
  • Have periodic meetings with HPKCC regarding the parks.
  • Establish an email tree to deal with any crisis that may arise.
  • Develop a broader exchange of email and mailing lists of stakeholders involved
    in the parks.

March 10, 2012:


• In October the group discussed how to reach out to other groups. Since then,
there is a new website for Jackson Park,
• Persuade the Herald to carry information about more parks meetings, and have a
feature “what’s happening in the parks.” [agreed, done]
• HPKCC will publicize all the neighborhood Earth Day events we can learn about.
These can also be sent to Ald. Burns for his e-blast.
• For volunteers to work in the parks, reach out to Chicago Cares
• Safety issues: Jackson Park and Elm Park are getting better cleaning. However,
there are more problems in Jackson Park, and it is important to keep on the
issues by calling 911 and Park Security at 312-474-2193.
• There was some discussion of the concept of a dog park in Hyde Park, which is
very much wanted by some in the neighborhood. The chair of the Jackson Park
Advisory Council would like one east of the tennis courts. Harold Washington is
another possibility. Elm Park was suggested and rejected as a venue. Group
members who have some experience with dog parks noted the need for people
to police the dog park and be responsible for maintenance, as well as issues
about controlling dogs, mixing large and small dogs in the same park, providing
isolation for anti-social dogs, etc.
• The Nichols Park Advisory Council is responsible for 4th on 53rd and needs
volunteers to join the various committees. Contact Stephanie Franklin (773 955-
3622) to volunteer.


Lately we are concerned with consequences of parks loss of funding resources and cutbacks in the parks budget, though encouraged by stabilization lately and by increased funding partnerships in parks.

We are also concerned that in the economic recession many park users, especially kids, are priced out of programs, or the the programs families want are spread out over distances and gang boundaries.

We are also concerned whenever we see that a park may be considered dispensable (i.e. Elm) or potential subjects of remaking for non-park agendas or uses (most seriously in recent times Washington- more than once, may be coming in Jackson).

For example, we sent a Letter in February 2007 to the Mayor and Olympic Committee setting forth principles, concerns, questions needed through study, and insistence upon community consultation before the Olympics in our area could go forward, especially in Washington Park. View it in the HPKCC Olympic letter page. See the Olympics page which includes report on meeting with Park District (in December 2007 Reporter).

February 2008, the Committee sent a letter calling for consistent policies consistently applied for councils, in light of the dissolution of the Kenwood Park Council and proposed new Guidelines. The park district replied with revisions to guidelines, but the problem has not entirely gone away. See letters, replies, in Park Issues.

Kenwood Park's disputes and (disputed) decertification of the council in late 2007 over alleged missing paperwork prompted the preceding-referenced letter, and two large public meetings, as well as offer of the then Conference president, with encouragement of the council and then-Ald. Preckwinkle to chair one of three committees looking toward a renewal of the council. As a result, the Kenwood Park was both restored and substantially improved. Find reports and final action (2008 into late 2009) in the Kenwood Park Usage Reports page. And a revitalized council has also worked with Shoesmith School to address mutual issues.

Here is the report published in the HPKCC Conference Reporter March 2008.
View from the Parks: Kenwood Park and Kenwood Council Dispute Affects Community

by Gary Ossewaarde

A dispute over expansion of one of the baseball diamonds in Kenwood Community Park (Farmers Field, at 50th and Dorchester) ended in challenges to the validity of the advisory council. The HPKCC parks committee (chair, Gary Ossewaarde) was asked to lok into the matter by council leaders, one of whom answered questions from the Conference board in February.

While the Conference has not taken a position on the expansion of t his diamond for league play by 11-13-year olds, we wrote Park District General Superintendent Timothy Mitchell of our concern about status of the council, allegedly over lost registration paperwork, and the likely role of an absence of consistent, objective and transparent procedures and environment for establishment, accountability, listening to or dissolution of park advisory councils.

We in fact found differences even in Hyde Park that could not be accounted for by park sizes, needs, or offerings. And we found that when this particular dispute led to deadlock between two powerful sets of park neighbors and users that could not be resolved with satisfaction to both parties by the council with help from the local alderman, it was all too easy for some party to inquire into the council's standing via filed paperwork, which was then not found.

"As is often the case," we wrote the Superintendent, "the informal and inconsistent operating practices of the Park District were not a problem until a dispute erupted. This is exactly the time when a transparent and empowered Advisory Council should be available to help resolve the issue." We concluded that consistent, objective, and transparent policy "is necessary for us to be confident that the seven Park Advisory Councils currently in Hyde Park and South Kenwood are properly and with confidence" able to do their jobs.

The Park District was indeed aware of such problems and preparing a new set of guidelines at the time, subsequently submitted to select councils for review. Widespread reaction was that the document needs revision lest it seriously damage local oversight and participation in our parks.

Meanwhile, the Kenwood council has continued to consult with the District and local officials and to plan for clean up days, fundraising for park programs, and new elections. The Conference believes park councils should be forums for conflict resolution, not bodies to be controlled.

Our Parks Committee notes these among issues and possible solution highlighted by the Kenwood Park disputes:

1) Too often new, or changes to existing, facilities desired by user groups or park officials are executed with insufficient or no advanced vetting or negotiation with park councils, neighbors, and the wider community. Helpful is insistence by public officials that fait accompli and lack of public input will not stand.

2) Demands on park space are constantly growing throughout the city. First, parks should have framework plans that are living governing documents. Second, there should be careful broad-input review of proposed uses that sequester parks in whole or in part. Planning needs to keep in mind that parks are first and foremost public, open, general use lands. Also, every effort should be made to accommodate, with safety, competing uses (and near neighbors) within parks and among parks of various sizes.

On the Olympics... the outcomes

The Conference received virtually no response on requests for information on Olympic planning and impact. We continued to monitor and to participate in community presentations, meetings and task forces, work with park councils and other organizations, and to post a full range of information and views in our Olympics and sub pages. Our board was concerned enough about some of the possible impacts, weaknesses in planning and genuine input, and incomplete benefit agreements that a resolution of opposition to the Games was introduced in early 2009, though not passed. The issue became moot when Chicago did not win its Olympic bid.

However, in 2010-11 proposals were put forth by the Army Corps and others to substantially alter the landscape and hydrology of Washington Park in way that drew objections from a large array of organizations including the HPKCC. The plans were halted, largely through the action of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Board has these standing parks resolutions (since 2003), sought by the Parks Committee:

  1. Concerns and objections to deep budget cuts and their impacts on children's programming, staffing, and parks upkeep. (See more on the budget, recently up again, in the Park Issues page.)
  2. Support for the work and plan of the Promontory Point Task Force and process under Sen. Obama (thrice reaffirmed and continuing).
  3. General support for a class A-1 fieldhouse north of HPK. [Appears to be in progress in the Mandrake Park area]
  4. Support for the efforts of its Nichols Park Council affiliate to achieve a balanced approach to the park's entry face at 53rd Street and the fit of the Murray gym addition to the existing gardens, also general support for continuing role of the Garden Fair in planning and planting the formal garden [done].
    December, 2004: Reiterates support for Nichols Park Council's pursuit of a design including space for public activities in the plaza, good passage and sight lines, and for better procedures facilitating strong, predominant public/neighbor's input into decisions- via their voice, the councils, noting councils are the best voice for their parks. Notes that NPAC is an affiliate committee of the Conference.
  5. Recommendation that CPkD and appropriate city departments move beyond warnings to learning causes and applying solutions to beach pollution and swimming bans.
  6. Supported Harold Washington Council in is opposition to placing a parking lot in Harold Washington Park (successfully).
  7. Directed a letter stating concerns, principles and questions regarding a 2016 Olympics stadium in Washington Park be sent to the Mayor, Olympic Bid Committee, and the Park District.
  8. Letters, communication and coordination opposing the 2010 wetlands proposal for Washington Park.
  9. Letters and help concerning revitalization of Elm Park and opposition to its loss to a parking lot.


What we need:


HPCCC Letter to Chicago Park District, March 26, 2008 related to the guidelines and park councils.

Timothy J. Mitchell, General Superintendent and CEO and
Timothy M. King, Legislative and Community Affairs
Chicago Park District
541 N. Fairbanks
Chicago, IL 60611

Dear Mr. Mitchell and Mr. King:

Thank you for your reply of March 6, 2008, to our letter of February 19. We were surprised to learn that you have been seeking comments and suggestions on revision of the 2000 Guidelines and are nearly ready to adopt a final document. The role of the Conference is to promote the good of parks in collaboration with councils, staff, and elected officials and to bring together community groups and organizations such as park councils to share their experiences and strengths. While we encourage parties such as park councils to be open and to function well and collaboratively, we do not recommend or support conformity to particular rules of internal operation.

You will recall that our letter was written in response to an ongoing park council issue in our area. We asked that the Park District have and apply, consistently and fairly, an internal policy for such circumstances. We were not thinking of a new set of guidelines, and certainly not a code for every procedure, such as may be suggested by the enumeration in your letter. Because we agree with you that PACs are separate entities, we are concerned that this kind of micromanagement could make it hard for councils to be formed and long-lasting and would dampen resident work and support for their parks. Perusal of your proposed document online confirms our concerns that this may be a turn for the worse. We hope and expect that all the councils, not just a few, as well as relevant stakeholder groups, will be given ample time to review and comment.

We believe that any guidelines should be guiding recommendations and should build and clarify a reciprocal partnership of collaboration. Guidelines need to include the Park District’s support for councils, such as a structure of communication and structure of full consultation in advance on projects and other park changes. While councils cannot set park policy, they are elected, and ideally representative of the community.

We stated that councils representing parks of different sizes, reach of constituency, or circumstances need room to adapt operations to their needs, not just needs of the Park District. Councils ebb and flow as issues and opportunities gain community attention. CPD Policy needs to make sure the varied councils can function and can operate in an open manner, and that policies do not themselves block communication or become an occasion for abuse or advantage within councils, by third parties, or staff within the District. We suggest that the District internally should have its own clear internal policy for what happens when there is a challenge to a council, allegation of abuses by any party, or unresolved disputes, with possibly a well-thought-out review body that could include rotating membership from various councils.

We should be in agreement on some important parameters for councils:

· They should be first and foremost a way for residents to come together freely for the good of their parks through an independent body,
· They need mutual open communication with and respect for and from park authorities local and citywide,
· They be need to be open to all interested parties, not a restricted set of constituents, and be confident that views and requests will receive an open hearing and response,
· Leadership needs to be democratically elected and act in that spirit,
· They need to meet openly and frequently and operate according to basic but reasonable, performable, flexible guidelines.

Our expectation is that the District will not enact policies that skew who may be member or officer in a council or inhibit or kill the councils and their ability to attract volunteers and raise appropriate funds for park needs. Rather, we hope that the District, through a period of input, will arrive at a document that promotes trust, reciprocal partnership, and fair dealing.


George W. Rumsey

Gary M. Ossewaarde
Vice President and Parks Chair
Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference


We're proud of our Hyde Park and Kenwood Parks and their PACs. Here's what some of them have done in recent years

Elm. Formed a new council in 2010 that has gained and continues to seek park upgrades from the district; received grants and gifts to plant thousands of bulbs and other plants and trees and hold storytelling, picnics, bike and safety clinics; positive loitering and strong relations with police and neighbors; put forth to officials the case for this park; developed with others a physical and action plan.

Jackson. Revitalized the PAC and committees, established stronger relations with park district staff and departments especially for the natural areas; worked with partners to achieve new sports facilities such as the artificial turf track and field; worked to develop an interactive nature trail; set up teams of volunteer that have restored and cleaned many parts of the park; developed a multi-year plan developing targets for park improvements; started fundraising and partnerships; continued its strong monitoring and advocacy for the park. Has to deal with increased demands for structures, uses in the park including quiet vs. busy, sectors vs. coordinated park.

Kenwood. The council worked through a challenge to be revitalized and be the lead advisor on park uses and facilities; worked with other organizations and facilities to right-size the fields and gain major upgrades; raises funds; works with the school on mutual issues.

Nichols. Continues to push for maintenance, upgrades, and appropriate overall park improvement under its framework plan (which all need to work collaboratively to implement) or others' projects (such as the proposed community garden, the Meadow, and the Formal Garden (the latter two with the Hyde Park Garden Fair); works with others concerned about this neighborhood's "central park," continues partnership for activities such as 4th on 53rd, Sunday concerts, pumpkin patches etc., and participation in 53rd St. neighborhood festivals; works for a strong fieldhouse/gym suite of programs and productive relationship with the school.

Washington. Continues to gain and fight for new facilities and programs in the fieldhouse and best condition for the sports fields while fending off inappropriate projects or festivals; works for a higher and expanded vision for the park.

Washington Park Conservancy has brought much new into the park and realized the natural area and stewardship aspect of the park. This needs to be kept going since its leader has left.


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