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Community News. Parks home. Cached records from 2003: a park is reborn and planned anew.

Spruce Park

This page brought to you by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Parks Committee and HPKCC's website, www.hydepark.org, with cooperation from the various Spruce Park Advisory Councils over the years. IT IS NOT AN OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF AN ADVISORY COUNCIL OR THE CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT. Join the Conference! Contact our Committee Chair. Page index.
Writer Gary Ossewaarde,

View these in pdf

Spruce Park is located at 5337 S Blackstone (2 blocks west of Lake Park/Metra), between 54th Street and the service drive south of 53rd St. Supervisor Nikki Peters 312 747-2703. ayanna.peters@chicagoparkdistrict.com. Area Manager tbe (Anita Gilkey interim).

2015 and recent PAC and park news and events
Old records To page with earlier records
-the redevelopment/framework plan 2004-5 (record from Spring 2005 HPKCC Reporter by Sach Diwan). Final Recommendations July 12 2006. (View documents in pdf)

Meeting tba, 6 pm with election. Nichols fieldhouse.

This park again has an advisory council- Meetings 3rd Mondays, next JANUARY 18, Monday, 6 pm. ELECTTION OF OFFICERS. At the December meeting, the PAC set the election for January and nominated the existing officers, Carol Moy, President , and Mark Graham, Secretary. Additional nominations, especially for Treasurer (vacant) are encouraged.
More below Contact Carol Moy, 773 550-0940 or Mark Graham. George Rumsey manages Facebook page (phone 773 955-4455 under Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conferenee.)

(2012 Hyde Park Garden Fair members took over and replanted and maintained Norah's Garden at the South end of Spruce Park, 54th St. and Blackstone. There was a planting grant from the Garden Fair for 2015. Park District has done and excellent job of upkeeping despite an initial glitch.


Spruce southwest entry. All pics Gary Ossewaarde   Spruce southeast entry with kiosk

Above: southwest entry, southeast entry with kiosk. Below: west side (fairly open and visible with controversial fence), central "plaza" area (with broken pavement and controversial bench surround).

Spruce along west side, Blackstone Spruce, central plaza and benches

Spruce Park is part of the South Region

Advisory Council Next meeting. May 16 2015, with elections- 3rd MONDAY, 6 PM. At Nichols fieldhouse 1355 E. 53rd St. (January and February cancelled.)

At the November meeting, members note that the park itself is in generally good shape and received new playground and partial walk replacement this summer. An immediate issue is locating the water connection and valve box and gathering the right key and making sure the park continues to have some trash cans through the winter. Among short/intermediate term asks are a storage space for tools at Nichols fieldhouse, a gazebo for picnics, programs etc. Longer term- replacement of the cyclone fence on Blackstone with a wrought iron. The council is exploring with the park supervisor formal and community programs for 2016.

Please find below the meeting notes from the SPAC November 2015 monthly meeting: From Carol Moy (Note, cans are supposed to be back November 24.)

Expressed our appreciation to the Chicago Park District for regularly cutting the park grass during the summer and weeding Nora's Garden this fall.
The sewers surrounding the park were serviced/rodded in November. However, the sewer in front of 5330 S. Blackstone remains completely blocked and causing a pond of water to pool in the adjacent driveway creating a walking hazard. The sidewalk at 1416-1418 E. 54th Street has a continual leak underground that has not been addressed by the city.
Attendee mentioned that there is a new kiosk in park on 54th Street. (Note: I checked the kiosk. Kiosk unchanged - same as before.)
In the middle of the park, the walking path remains uneven in certain spots despite the recent renovation of the playground area and some of the adjacent concrete path. It is hazardous to pedestrians and wheelchair residents.
A suggestion was made to review the Wicker Park website for park event ideas in the future.
A suggestion was made to request a gazebo/covered picnic shelter (10 ft x 20 ft) from the Chicago Park District for SPAC to host outdoor events.
Another suggestion was made to start a gofundme page to help defray the cost.
There is only one electrical outlet in Spruce Park.
Nikki will check on buffalo box key again for next year's use.
Niikki will check around the buffalo box. The ground has sunk around it and created a hazard for the children playing soccer around it.
Attendee suggested that the chain link fence surrounding the park should be replaced by wrought iron fence as many other parks/playlots have already.
Attendee suggested several ideas including caroling to our pets for a December 2015 park event. Idea/event was tabled for 2015 year due to scheduling short notice.
Attendee mentioned that local church has community work days. Perhaps we can ask church to help SPAC with events/clean up days, etc.
Attendee suggested banner be made for SPAC to publicize SPAC and gather names, email addresses for the SPAC mailing list.
Attendee suggested setting up V card and QR code.
Nikki will put SPAC on list for all free Chicago Park District events for the 2016 year for which the Spruce Park space would be suitable.
Discussed the charitable designation for SPAC, grants, etc.
Elections for the new SPAC officers for the 2016 one year term beginning January 2016 will be held at the December 2015 meeting.


Will check with Chicago Park District regarding adjacent sewers and possible Streets and Sanitation contact for pooling water/blocked drains/subterranean water leak.
Will request gazebo from Chicago Park District for 2015 year.
Will check on buffalo box key and area surrounding buffalo box with Chicago Park District.
Will request wrought iron fence for SPAC.
Will place SPAC on list for any free events presented by Chicago Park District for 2016.


Will set up bank account with charitable designation as required by IRS.
Will check on cost of banner.
Will look into V card and QR code for SPAC.
Will e-mail Nikki photos of the blocked sewer/underground leak sites: COMPLETED

The council met April 20 and elected officers, approved bylaws, schedule and committees, filled in paperwork and held a goodly discussion of short and long-term desires for the park. Work orders and requests fdor evaluations for some are being turned in.
Elected: President Carol Moy, VP Joseph Bernstein, Treas. I. V. Preston, Sec. Mark A. Graham.

The council had a meeting March 16 2015 to start filling in membership forms, request work orders form supervisor Nikki Peters for such items as lights out and start setting forth short and longer term vision. Among the encouraging factors is a large number of families with children have moved in and are actively using the park. WONDERFUL NEWS- NEW PLAYGROUND AND WALK ARE ALMOST FINISHED AS OF LATE APRIL 2015. Equipment (safe and with up to date fitness) features the color chartreuse.

May 18 2015 meeting highlights based on notes from the secretary.

Spruce Park Advisory Council's special thanks and acknowledgment to George Rumsey, President of the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference, for $250.00 grant to Spruce Park's Advisory Council.

Spruce Park Advisory Council's appreciation to George Rumsey and the the Hyde Park Garden Fair for the donation of five bushes to be planted at Spruce Park this week.

Spruce Park Advisory Council's thanks to Nikki Peters for the delivery of two garbage and two recycling cans and fixing the timers of park lights since the April 2015 meeting.

Schedules and needs: Lawn mowing scheduled for Monday, every two weeks.
Upper east wing of concrete is especially uneven and in need of repair. Dangerous to all, especially wheelchair residents.
Water fountain leaking at base.
No high hedges should be planted for safety reasons.
Garden suggested for southeast corner of park (space between sidewalk and fence adjacent to driveway).
Fibar wood chips are the safest and most economical base for playground equipment.
Mulching day suggested but not needed this year.
Notify Nikki Peters if flooding occurs at park entrance on Blackstone near Giordanos Restaurant (photos are helpful).
Metal benches average $5000, usually donated to parks by families as memorial benches. Park District will only fix existing benches that are broken/dangerous.
Mark Graham accessed the bulletin board and replaced the locks, will provide key copies to Park District.
Ribbon cutting/publicity suggested for new playground equipment.
Story teller time suggested.
Create Facebook Page to document all activities.
Citywide initiative: It's Your Park Day - June 20th. Park clean-up suggested on Saturday, June 20th: 10 - 12 pm. Post signs around the park, place notice in Hyde Park Herald.
Park clean-up on a monthly basis suggested. Nikki Peters needs two weeks notice and she will have Park District drop off supplies at Spruce Park. Equipment such as rakes, wheelbarrows must be obtained from Nichols Fieldhouse.
Place sign on bulletin board regarding permits for large groups barbecues in park.
Obtain original master plan for Spruce Park; plans may be available online.
Clay tiles on corner ramps for handicapped access are loose and dangerous; residents should notify 5th ward alderman with photos.
Street lights burned out on 54th and Blackstone; residents should notify 5th ward alderman with photos.
Ongoing/puddle water leak on 54th street that residents walk through to access park; residents should notify 5th ward alderman with photos

Work orders requested of park supervisor:
1. Will follow up with Park District on mowing the lawn in Spruce Park.
2. Will request cross wood bar be placed on benches to deter sleeping and skateboarding on benches.
3. Will request "Curb Your Dog", "No Smoking, Etc." signs be posted in the park.
4. Will request key for buffalo box water source.
5. Will request storage box be installed in southwest corner of park to house hoses for Nora's Garden.
6. Will request coal can be placed near benches for barbecue coal disposal.
7. Will request the removal of planter located in southwest corner outside park entrance.
8. Will request the repair of water fountain leak.

President Carol Moy will work on:

1. Plant bushes donated by Hyde Park Garden Fair
2. Meet with Mark Graham to obtain bulletin board key
3. Register Spruce Park for "It's Your Park Day"
4. Contact IV Preston regarding Spruce Park Advisory Council checking account and initial grant check.
5. Will check on story teller availability/cost for Spruce Park.
6. Will notify 5th ward alderman about loose corner tiles.
7. Will notify 5th ward alderman about burned out street lights.

Gary Ossewaarde will work on getting original and framework plans.

Volunteer needed to start Facebook page.

June - the council planned June 20 "It's Your Park" Day activities These include cleanup and gardening/planting, assessment and survey, interaction with visitors, and more. Over 20 worked adn accomplishe much including removal of the the wooden planter.

- Rake the FIBAR/mulch in playground area
- Pick up trash
- Pull up weeds
- Provide information of SPAC meetings schedule
- Education on importance of parks as renewal of environment
- History of Spruce Park (Informational on Gary’s Site)
- Capture pictures of participants (to be posted in kiosk)

The council also discussed work orders and needs with the supervisor (ask Mark Graham if needed), need for a treasurer so fiscal agencey and bank can be set up. Alternative meeting locations (or means) for the summer were discussed and would be decided and diseminated later.

July 20 2015 meeting. Much on our list has been completed- reminder signage, kiosk updating, obsolete planter box removal, general cleanup and garden tending. Application for the Burpee-sponsored FOTP seed grant has been submitted, to be used for wildflowers along the Blackstone fence.
Needed: bench painting (scheduled), orange coals cans, buffalo box keys, three hoses for use in Norah's Garden, water-pooling fixes
Carol will serve as interim treasurer until there can be election; some financial/fiscal work is to be completed.
SPAC will be planning with the supervisor for park district (Night Out) events in the park next year- preferences needed by April.

Accomplishments June 21:

Fibar in playground area was raked.
Trash was collected, sidewalks swept and Nora's Garden Annex was weeded.
The wood planter with the dead bush located at the corner of 54th Street and Blackstone was removed.
Generous donation of donuts and coffee were enjoyed by 20+ volunteers who participated in the park cleanup.

Nikki will follow up on

Hot coal can to be requested again.
Will check on keys for buffalo box.
Repainting of benches has been assigned a work order number by Chicago Park District - Nikki will check on progress of work order
Will look at the pooling water at the north end park entrance near Giordano's
Spruce Park Advisory Council application and bylaws resubmitted to Maria Stone, Chicago Park District

Carol will follow up on

Open bank account for Spruce Park Advisory Council.
Obtain water hoses.
Follow up on Burpee seed grant application.


Old Records

The final meeting on the plan was held July 12, 2005. The Council is mulling what it should use its SECC grant money on that would jump-start implementation. Near top of the list are new trash cans, a replacement demonstration bench. Pricing is underway. The Council also is asking removal of obsolete concrete benches in the center.

The council is looking at ways to encourage and facilitate users taking care of and with their dogs. The council is planning a Harvest Festival for late October.

The council has received a generous 2006 grant from the South East Chicago Commission and a grant from University of Chicago Hospitals.

Spruce's requests at the budget meeting, September 2005

Implement the framework plan. Three reasons to support were cited: aldermanic support, community participation and hands-on work, business support. With confidence that funds can be raised, the president asked that Spruce be made a shining example.

The General Superintendent provided a reply that promises little, but says the district "will work toward including framework plan projects for spruce Park in our 2006-2010 Capital Improvement Plan."

Framework Plan for Spruce Park Renovation approved July 2006

To final recommendations

At the September council meeting SPAC viewed, generally liking, and discussed with Robert Steele of CPD the final draft of the Framework Plan. We hope to have it up in pdf soon. It divides the park into three use sectors via a crushed gravel path that goes from the northwest side diagonal to the middle back then forks, one part straight to the southeast entry and the other wandering west then south to the southwest entry. The new playground would move to the west (sidewalk) side in the middle, with various amenities for parents at the interior edge (that could also accommodate programs), soft surface, water fountain and more. Nearby would be a children's garden and a restored "Snoopy." The large east and north sector would be for casual uses and or dog walkers and the south part be more flat for family use. There would be re landscaping and new lighting including lower acorn globe and higher spots in the back. The playlot would be surrounded by a low wall-and-hedge and the park enclosed with a 4" wrought iron fence. Total cost, part to be raised by the community)- $600,000. See plan below in the Framework section.

The final meeting on the plan was held July 12, 2005. The Council is mulling what it should use its SECC grant money on that would jump-start implementation. Near top of the list are new trash cans, a replacement demonstration bench.


The north end of the park, including the Giordano's Restaurant dumpsters that may be encroaching on the park, are considered challenges that can be addressed in the short term. The edges including the garden (currently needing attention) on the south side- long tended by Norah Erickson, are being studied for enhancement. There are varied views about removing/replacing the edge fencing, although there is general agreement about fencing the playground. Handling and placement of an adequate number of nice trash containers is another matter being studied.


Problem-causing dumpsters encroaching  north end of park. (Incidently, open dumpsters are  illegal). Spruce garden along 54th St.
Spruce playground spruce playground

The playground is a key use and element of the park but is often appropriated for "inappropriate" uses by teens and adults, as is the plaza, both serving as "outdoor living rooms." Several members would like the framework plan to recommend moving the playground toward the front of the park and southward. The playground would be fenced in and gated using wrought iron, especially if the park is not to be completely fenced and gated. More and better lighting is considered a must. Repair and reconfiguration of the plaza and paths are considered important, perhaps with a water feature in the plaza (long-range).

Spruce Park Advisory Council- Requirements for Park Framework Study: See description. Plan:

View documents in pdf


Below see the evolution of desires and concepts. In the final version, moving the playground was at the top. A spray feature, children's garden and exercise stations was put into the long range or low priority category, but there was hope that the children's garden would move up once there was commitment on the playground.

I- A New Vision for Spruce Park, as published in the Spring 2005 Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Reporter. By Sach Diwan

A few years ago, a group of concerned citizens formed a park advisory council to help clean up and improve Spruce park (the corner of 54th and Blackstone Avenue). In order to accomplish our goal of making Spruce Park a safe, clean more friendly and inviting place for residents and their children, we are working with the Chicago Park District to craft a framework plan. The crux of the framework plan will be to:

  1. Change the location of playground and move it towards corner of 54th and Blackstone.
  2. Ensure that the new playground will have a soft rubberized top
  3. Have the playground area fenced-in (similar to Bixler playlot)
  4. Remove the fences along Blackstone Avenue and along 54th Street to improve public access to the park (similar to Nichols Park)
  5. Place numerous signs warning dog owners to pick up after their pets
  6. Landscape areas adjacent to the north fence to minimize the appearance of dumpsters
  7. Replace the existing sidewalks with a new winding sidewalk path
  8. Remove the existing concrete benches and replace them with a small number of geographically dispersed benches (to discourage groups from congregating at night)
  9. Install at least three bolted permanent trash cans
  10. Install new lighting to increase security and discourage nocturnal loiterers
  11. Install a new fountain or spray pool (again similar to Bixler)
  12. Install a few exercise stations (pull-8up bar, push-up station, sit-up station)

II- Priorities (a slightly different mix of proposals)
High Priority Items:

· Remove fence along Blackstone Avenue and fence along 54th Street

· Change Playground configuration (move towards south corner of 54th and Blackstone)
o Playground should have soft top
o Similar to Murray School play lot, but with a swing and sand box
o Should be fenced in like Bixler

· Landscape areas adjacent to the north fence to minimize appearance of dumpsters

· Replace existing sidewalk with new winding sidewalk paths

· Remove existing benches and replace with three strategically placed benches in opposite parts of the park (so groups can’t congregate)

· Install a minimum of three bolted permanent trash cans

· Install new lighting (important to increase security and discourage loitering)

Medium Priority Items:
· Install new Fountain or Spray Pool

· Exercise stations (pull-up bar, push-up station, sit-up station)

Top Return to mid text

Information relative to creating a framework plan for Spruce Park

Existing conditions

Perimeter: garden planters along 54th Street, chain-link fence set back, discontinuous parkway trees, dumpsters along north alley
Walks: sidewalks ok, interior walks broken and discontinuous
Plaza (broken concrete): questionable uses perhaps related to benches laid out like a living room, garbage can placement poor
Playground: woodchip mulch is now unacceptable, missing apparatus, large trees close and spreading over, not separately fenced in, maybe too far back and in
Landscaping: small mounds, large trees, grass, gardens at south end
Signage: 3 park signs maybe with insufficient rules, one kiosk
Lighting: concrete with cobra head, working, maybe insufficient

Concept Plan Goals expressed




Revitalization Objectives

The final recommendations of July 12, 2006

Concept goals:

  1. Improve park and utilities to CPD standards
  2. Upgrade playground
  3. Encourage children to use the park
  4. Improved security
  5. Replace existing lighting
  6. Control dogs in the park
  7. Enhance landscaping
  8. Improve park circulation and layout [including a better diagonal through the park)
  9. Encourage regular visits from the community
  10. Improvements should be environmentally friendly

Major Recommendations

  1. New, age appropriate soft surface playground relocated to center of park
  2. Ongoing public participation in park programming
  3. Upgrade lighting inside the park to Park District standards
  4. Incorporate public art into the park
  5. Add ornamental fencing around perimeter
  6. Permanent garbage cans at park entrances
  7. Park District to work with police to enforce park rules and regulations
  8. Relocate and repair walkways in the park
  9. New benches that do not encourage sleeping
  10. Keep community garden on south border of park
  11. Performance space




At the February 2005 meeting, the council opposed a renaming of Spruce Park at present and took measures to seek new members, regularize the council, and plan specific, doable changes such as removing the fence. Continuing problems are trash cans (often missing) and perception of increased dog droppings. Informing residents of ordinances on trash and pets was considered. Re the naming, treasurer Sarah Diwan said, "If a name change hold be considered, we would like to go through a process of community consultation over who the park should be named for."
Gary Ossewaarde

The Park District proposes to rename Spruce Park for U of C 1963 Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Maria Goeppert-Mayer.

Ald. Preckwinkle is in process of seeking opinion from the Spruce Park Advisory Council and has not taken a position. It is unclear as to whether the alderman will call a local meeting. February 9 council meeting consensus was to ask the District to defer or pass on a renaming and keep Spruce.

Herald coverage January 19, 2005.

The park district has also suggested renaming Spruce Park, 5337 S. Blackstone Ave., for Maria Goeppert-Mayer, the late Nobel-Prize-winning University of Chicago physicist. The park's year-old advisory [council] will likely take a vote in February, treasurer Sarah Diwan said. "It looks like we are split right now," said Diwan, referring to one member's opposition to the renaming. "Personally, I'm kind of in favor of it."

The renaming trend is part of a park district effort to increase city parks named for women. Since March 2004, the park district has renamed 17 parks in honor of important women in Chicago's history, said Planning Supervisor Julia Bachrach, who oversees the renaming process. "The board has made it very clear they want me to keep going," Bachrach said.

The park district generally proposes names which are then forwarded to the local alderman who in turn should present the new name to the community for vetting. The park district's board takes vote two months after the new park is formally [proposed.]

"In both instances [Beech and Spruce in the 4th Ward], I an waiting to hear back from the park advisory councils," Preckwinkle said.

With backing from board President Maria Saldana and two additional female commissioners, Bachrach began the renaming initiative roughly a year ago by taking inventory of park names to figure out how many parks carried women's names. "I had never counted them before so we were all a little surprised there were only 27," Bachrach said.

Even after a year of renaming's, 44 parks, or less that 10 percent, of the more than 550 city parks are named for women. Almost 370 parks carry men's names. Top


The 'naming game' and how it ties into (or pales before) serious viability issues for Spruce, by Dina Weinstein

Hyde Park Herald, January 26, 2005

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell you straight out, I serve on the Spruce Park Advisory Council. This involves going to monthly meetings and kvetching about the park, which is located just south of Giordano's Pizza, 5337 S. Blackstone ave.

Park district officials take notes and tell us to call the cops on the debauchery we witness there. It usually sounds like this: "Can we get trash cans inside the park? Why are there no trash cans? There's all kinds of trash in there--trash from druggies and teenage smokers who like to hide in the playground, trash from boozers, dog poop and garbage from fast food snacks bought at joints on 53rd Street."

Once I found a flattened cardboard box on top of the slide apparatus. A homeless person had used it as a bed. He also left toiletries and clothing in the playlot. I was with my pre-school aged son and had to clear away all this before he could use the equipment.

Spruce Playlot Park, I learned from the park's website, was created in 1963, as part of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Urban Renewal project. The park district officially named the site Spruce park in 1973. The park was one of a number of properties named for trees and plants at that time. Spruce trees are sharp-needled evergreens that can grow to heights of 20 to 100 feet. Seven of 40 species world-wide are native to North America.

I am told by Renee Chester at the park advocacy organization, Friends of the Parks, that most of the Chicagoans who trot out to Park advisory Council meetings are women who want better maintained green space for themselves, their families and their community.

I'd like to enjoy Spruce Park. I can see it from my apartment window. But there's something about it that sends me to parks that have names--Bixler and Nichols. There always seem to be people using those parks. There's safety and fun in numbers.

Are they better used and maintained because they' renamed after Hyde Parkers who were educators and community planners? The Chicago Park District seems to think a name can make a park.

COD officials have proposed renaming Spruce Park after Maria Goeppert Mayer. Goeppert Mayer was a Nobel Prize winning physicist at the University of Chicago [managed] Argonne National Laboratory located 45 minutes west of here. She helped advance the theory of how the nuclei of atoms are structured. Her work explained why some atoms are more stable than others and why some atoms have isotopes while others do not. Way to go, Maria!

Turns out of the 550 parks in the city more than 300 are named for people but only 27 were named after women. The park district has been, since last March (Women's History Month) proposing name changes for parks with tree, number and street names. The changes honor famous Chicago women who made important contributions. Included in that list are Bessie Coleman (the first African American female pilot), Arnita Young Boswell (accomplished social worker, educator and activist who founded Chicago's League of Black Women) and Gwendolyn Brooks (Pulitzer prize winning poet).

I like the nature reference in Spruce. It seems to conjure up what the park could be and does actually offer, a natural respite from urban life. I also like the names Willow and Chokeberry and Hyacinth--the above list's former appellations.

Under the snowy cover of winter, only the hard-core dog walkers and sledders are making use of the common green space. My days of long stretches in the parks with my two little boys laden with sand toys, snacks and sunscreen are far off but not forgotten. The excitement of a chance meeting with friends are the fabulous memories of childhood and summer.

Last summer, I marched in the Hyde Park Fourth of July-everyone-marches-parade with the Advisory Council group. We had signs tacked to our kids' strollers that read "No boozing in Spruce Park" and "Pick up your dog poop." We got a lot of comments.

Attention to South Side parks shines light to paltry park offerings down here. Compare the Lincoln Park Cultural Center's offerings* to the South Shore Cultural Center. It make us ask other looming questions like the location of the closest CPD indoor swimming pool?** And why are there no swimming lessons at Washington Park's outdoor pool? [*The discrepancy are much more glaring on the CPD website because of current policy against listing programs not directly put on by the district. **Dyett, King.]

While changing the name is laudable, I'm thinking about whether it would make a difference for Spruce Park. By the way, the university honors Goeppert Mayer in a distinguished scholar position at Argonne. Would a U. of C. representative come to the advisory council meetings if it was Maria Goeppert-Mayer Park?

Maybe the U. of C. police will pay attention and respond quickly when alerted to people boozing, sleeping or gambling in the space .I just can't imagine a cop getting out of his cruiser and slapping cuffs on the guy who doesn't pick up his dog's poop in Maria Goeppert Mayer Park.



Council actions and what was observed about the park last summer (2004)

Spruce Park News
July 2004

Hi Everyone,

An update of the last SPAC meeting (July 14, 2004) follows:

I. Liz Steggemann and Sarah Diwan are working on an event for late summer/ early fall. We hope to have a child safety fair in the park. The police department will be on hand to register/photograph/ fingerprint children and register bicycles (or tricycles!) and the fire department will also have a representative in attendance. Expect a jumping jack, games, sidewalk art, cookies and possibly some community bench painting. Anyone interested in helping out should contact me and I will put you in touch with the committee.

II. Liz and I met with Robert Steele (CPD Community Affairs) and Andre Taylor (Risk Management) on July 19th. Thanks to A.J. Jackson and Alonzo Williams for attending, as well. We toured the park and discussed the badly broken (and dangerous) sidewalks and the need to trim or remove the hedges along the west fence. We should be hearing back from the CPD in the very near future—hopefully with good news about repairing the sidewalks. The CPD representatives seemed truly shocked at the appalling state of the sidewalks and genuinely hope to fund their repair/ replacement. Elijah probably helped our case by taking a nose dive on one of the nastier cracks in the sidewalk—and right in front of Andre from risk management! Andre thinks that the bushes along the west fence are a serious problem, as well. They prevent the police from having a clear view into the park and may be the reason that the playlot is such a popular place for illegal activity. The promptness and seriousness with which Robert, Andre, A.J. and Alonzo addressed this issue is VERY much appreciated.

III. We are writing up a proposal for a small grant from Bank One to purchase some plants for the park. Given the need to remove the bushes along the west fence, this may be the perfect opportunity to purchase some low plants to put in their place. A.J. has promised that the CPD will take care of bush removal and replanting. We will be asking for $500 and sponsorship of our child safety fair.

IV. We are really trying to maintain a consistent 911 calling campaign this summer. There has been a lot of illegal activity in the park at night and the ONLY solution is to call the police. The following activities are illegal in the park: gambling, drinking alcoholic beverages, drug use, fighting, excessive noise, or threatening activity of any kind. The more we call, the more likely the police are to put us on their regular patrol route. You can also call the UC police at 702-8181. They are an excellent resource and often arrive at the scene promptly. WE ALSO NEED VOLUNTEERS TO ATTEND THE CAPS MEETINGS.

V. We finally have a key to our new kiosk at the SE entrance. Sharon Brinkman has volunteered to help decorate it. We hope to have information about the SPAC, upcoming events, and reminders about community policing and dog ordinances.

VI. The CPS agreed to try a new tactic with the trash can issue. We will have a plastic can at each entrance and two in the park. They will use bags, so that the issue of getting the trash out to the curb for pickup is a bit easier. Also, the plastic cans are less appealing as BBQ grills and hopefully will not be stolen as often. We are still waiting for the dog ordinance signs.

On the agenda for the next meeting (Aug. 11 at 6:30 pm): treasurer's report, board election in September, update on the planning of our event, update on Bank One proposal and a discussion of what to put in place of the bushes along the west fence. At the last meeting, we agreed to meet in the park at 6:30 pm unless it is RAINING (in which case we will meet at the Nichols facility). Hope to see everyone there.

Justine Way


What the Herald said in July

Sidewalks continue to crumble and people continue to fall in the park, Justine Way told the Herald. "It' really a safety issue." It looks like there will be new sidewalks in time for the September child safety event. "Over all [the park] has changed a lot over the last year...it's cleaner. I would say there are fewer people drinking. Hopefully it will change even more."

Way also told the Herald that a large contingent from Chicago Cares mulched trees, weeded the plot and collected six bags of garbage this summer.


Park background

"The Chicago Park District developed this park in 1963, as part of t he Hyde Park-Kenwood Urban Renewal Project. The park district officially named the site Spruce Park in 1973. The park was one of a number of properties named for trees and plants at this time. Spruce trees are sharp-needled evergreens that can grow to heights of 20 to 100 feet. Seven of 40 species worldwide are native to North America. In the U.S. and Canada, spruces are planted in large numbers for reforestation projects and as Christmas trees. The blue spruce, native to the central Rocky Mountains and cultivated widely elsewhere, can live to be 600 to 800 years old."

By Julia Bachrach, CPD Historian, in chicagoparkdistrict.com.

Norah and Bill Erickson were among the first to bring neighbors together to plan for the park and great believers in what benefits open space brings. Bill made a wooden mockup of the park. Norah made sure there were flowers and was highly active at the time in founding the Hyde Park Garden Fair and other projects with the conference [HPKCC] or preventing a highway in Jackson Park.

Spruce is one of a trio of several areas cleared under the Community Conservation Plan of Urban Renewal in the 1960's and designated for parks. Elm (PK-2) behind new Kimbark Plaza evolved by itself (but Barbara Fiske pers. comm. sev. years ago had the plans that underwent evolution); Spruce (PK-5) and Nichols (PK-5) (designations in the December, 1960 map) had informal planning councils and also were watched over by the Parks and Sculpture committees of the HPKCC. Spruce, like Nichols, was planned to have "worthy" public sculptures with public planning input. The [HPKCC} sculpture committee was led by the leading persons of the neighborhood during its most productive first dozen years. They raised thousands from the community and in grants from the Woods Charitable Trust and other foundations.

The work chosen for Spruce was a gigantic work called affectionately "Snoopy," by ________. However, it was made of perishable materials and after a few years during which it suffered vandalism it was removed to a park district warehouse. A few years ago, HPKCC inquired about it and was told it would cost $60,000 to restore!

Also in Spruce is a circle of engraved bricks surrounding the former water feature, memorial to five children who died playing in the neighborhood when a huge tree fell. [This writer, GMO, recalls seeing a document, possibly in the HPHS Newsletter that named the children and families ID'd by Leon Despres, who was alderman at the time of the installation. Preparer of the bricks, I recall, was said to be artist and potter Dorothy Horton, who definitely did the memorial bricks at the Nichols Park south fountain. Perhaps a search for the Hyde Park Herald archive or inquiry to individuals S.F. or J.C. would give the answers.]

Council president of note for many years was Norah Erickson. The council deeply appreciates Norah's help in the reconstitution effort, as well as her many years of work planting the gardens on the south edge of the park and her monitoring of and activism for this park since its founding, as well as her general parks activism and participation in the work of the Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee. GMO