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Florence Stout Park and Park Advisory Council

The PAC as of April 2017 is circulating a petition regarding removal of the ball field. Kenneth East or Fran Vandervort can be contacted for a copy.

This is a temporary page and not by the PAC or Chicago Park District but by the Parks Committee of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, chairs Louise McCurry and Gary Ossewaarde. Pro-tem Stout PAC facilitator Fran Vandervoort. Writer Gary Ossewaarde.

In early June 2015, a set of neighbors convened to do a walk thr rough of this medium-sized park in the 5400 block of S. Ellis Avenue, Hyde Park Chicago. Survey and assessment forms were filled in, and the Park District was petitioned for a formation meeting for an Advisory Council.

Officers (re-elected to one-year terms February 2 2016) - Kenneth East, PAC President, Fran Vandervoort , PAC Vice President, Leslie Judge Secretary-Treasurer.

Meeting and events dates, workdays, activities, current business and news.
Park history

News 2015-16

Work has regularly been done by CPD an the council has held workdays and walk through by itself and with CPD. The majority of dead ash trees ave been removed- the rest including some others will be removed when the ground is solidly frozen. The council continues to plan for ballfield renewal, playground equipment and plantings (PD will replace removed trees this year after all removals are done. The PAC met with Barbara Wood of CPD in April and approved in principal the tree replacement plan. Ornamentals are planned for next year. South fence cleanout was done.

June 29 2016 tree planting began, and gradually done, although not all according to best standards. Also, fencing went up for playground replacement--equipment initially selected at a well-attended aldemanic meeting January 26 and reviewed by the council.

July 28 from a SPAC member re new playground and benches: Just wanted to say what a great job is being done on Stout Park's new playgrounds. Not only great new equipment, but also new walkways and benches. No more broken asphalt and, yes, 3 new/repaired benches in the SE lot and 1 in the NE lot! This really knocks down our to-do list. Sadly, we do now have one bench, the long one by the SE entrance, needing repair. The seat board has been broken lengthwise, so needs replacement. I would like to add this to the agenda at the August meeting as a new work order.

MEETING date: "1st" Tuesdays 6 pm at Nichols fieldhouse, 1355 E. 53rd St. Every other month or less. NO MEETING JUNE OR JULY 2017.

Coming July 6-August 12- Tuesdays and Thursdays 4 pm. Rollin' Rec, a pop-up activity in Stout Park. FLYER.

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Tomorrow will be our first meeting of the Stout Park Advisory Council since early December. Louise McCurry has tantalized us with a “surprise” for the meeting. Come find out what it is!

At the December meeting, the PAC made some strategic decisions about our focus, after a 12-18 month period of initial activity. Here’s some of what we discussed:

No more monthly meetings. Stout Park is a small park that had a lot of deferred maintenance. But we’ve caught up with much of it. Board members often caucus informally at the morning “gathering of the dogs.” Things like our missing winter trash cans get noted and responded to in these meetings. But we don’t feel that monthly meetings are essential. We’ll aim for every other month going forward. But there may be fewer in winter and more in summer, depending on what’s happening in the park.

We discussed a few issues that the PAC will focus on going forward:

Complete the tree removal and augment last year’s tree plantings with some ornamental trees. Barbara Wood promised us some ornamental trees to round out last year’s plantings. There’s still one tree that needs to be removed. We’ll also audit how last year’s plantings are doing.

Press on with our campaign to fix our muddy, dysfunctional infield. We had an alternately muddy and icy mess all winter long. In warm weather, it can be a mosquito hazard. If we can’t get the field removed completely, we’ll continue to try to get the Park District to sod much of the infield. Promises to fix the problem by regrading have been comically ineffective.

Improve the grass throughout the park. We’ve been warned that the soil is so compacted that this will be difficult. Weeds give the “lawn” a green look in the summer. In winter, bare ground turns to mud here, too. No work has been done on the lawn here in decades.

Get Kiosks installed. We discussed trying to get Target to sponsor a kiosk in exchange for advertising rights. We need to get the Park District’s Trades department to advise us on cost and specs for a kiosk before we approach Target.

WORKDAY-

 

The big changes to Stout Park, of course, are new trees and new playground equipment. The Park District removed more than twenty trees—mostly dead and dying ash trees—earlier this year. We have about that many new trees planted again—with the promise of a few ornamental trees to be added to the mix within a season or two. The landscaping firm that planted the trees also guarantees them. So volunteers don’t really have a role in maintaining the new plantings. But we can refresh the mulch around the existing trees as part of the clean up.

The new playground equipment is still a work in progress. The equipment is in place. But they’re still working on adding the cushioning materials to the play areas and reconstructing some of the retaining walls. I’ve even heard rumors that some asphalt paving near the playgrounds might be repaired or replaced. We’ll see.

A major concern the PAC still has with Stout Park is the muddy mess of the baseball field. A recent photo is included below [thank you, Leslie Judge]. The district suggests that regrading the field would solve our problem. But no regrading has been done. They are concerned to keep baseball fields. But no league games have been scheduled here for several seasons. The field is a mess. Continues to be a mess. And the PAC will continue to argue for replacing it with a grassy field where pick up ball can still be played, but the major mud events are reduced.

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April 16 SPAC met with Barbara Wood of CPD Natural Resources and reviewed an acceptable Phase 1 template for a avariety of about 20 replacement trees. Ornamentals will be considered after the tree planting and playground replacement. Turf in the center will be was then proposed by SPAC to be aerated. Options for the ball field were explored- once a plan is developed, public meetings will be held, but for now no request wil be put in.
As of mid June, the tree replacement flags were laid down and utility markings made for the new playgrounds.

From Kenneth East Nov. 30

First, thanks to everyone who sent emails earlier this month to protest the disappearance of the park’s trash and recycling bins. The Park District responded promptly to these emails. We now have a single trash and a single recycling bin near the south entrance on University to use over the winter.

After a burst of welcome energy to clear out Stout Park’s dead and dying trees earlier this fall, things seem to have ground to a halt. While close to twenty trees have been removed and their stumps ground down, there are still a half dozen trees to cull. I haven’t had word from the Park district about when this job will be completed. I’ll keep you informed.

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We’ve been informed that Stout Park will be replanted in the spring and that we’ll work with CPD staff on a replanting plan between now and then. I’ve requested information from park district staff on how the PAC can upgrade or augment what CPD can budget for this project. Specifically, I’ve asked if we can raise money for additional trees, if necessary, or to buy older trees than CPD can afford to purchase. No one answered my questions in time for last months PAC meeting. I’ve resubmitted my questions this month several more times to more than one staff person. No answers this month either. I’ll keep trying. This lack of response is frustrating. The PAC is eager to get started on this project.

Besides new trees, Stout Park needs some turf work done. The PAC has been discussing turf projects for several months and already reviewed a memo to park staff on these projects. I’ve revised this memo to discuss at this Tuesday’s meeting. A copy of it is attached. I’m expecting to deliver it to senior park staff at a CPD budget meeting downtown later this week. The memo proposes to turf over the dirt infield of our too often too muddy baseball field. We are asking to have turf repair and maintenance done in the open field. And we’re suggesting that we shrink our future infrastructure repair costs by removing the asphalt walkway in the lightly-used southwest corner of the park and turfing this area instead.

Report

Memorandum
Date: November 30, 2015
To: Chicago Park District Board and Staff; Alderman Hairston
cc Nikki Ayanna Peters, Park Manager; Louise McCurry, HPKCC Park co-
chair; George Rumsey, HPKCC president; Cordell Hopkins, Park Area
Manager
From: Stout Park Advisory Council; Kenneth East, President [773-684-2547 lan;
773-414-0939 cell; eastkenneth@gmail.com] Frances Vandervoort, Vice
President; Leslie Judge, Secretary
RE: Turf Issues in Stout Park

Executive Summary
This memo began life dealing only with the challenges of Stout Park’s small baseball
field. Below, we pitch the idea that turfing the dirt infield could be the most economical fix
to our problem with the too muddy baseball field. As that idea germinated, however,
we’ve seen new turf as helping solve two other problem areas of the park. We’re
requesting that some of the park’s central field that is now bare earth either be turfed or
have other lawn restoration work done. And we’re proposing that a small circular asphalt
walkway be removed and turfed over instead. This memo expands on those three
requests. It begins by framing the broader work being done at Stout Park and the role of
the PAC in shaping that work.

Background: Stout Park and Its New PAC
Stout Park is a fine and popular little park. But some of its infrastructure elements—
especially the asphalt walkways and some of the enclosed playgrounds--are showing
their age. More seriously, close to two-dozen trees were dead or dying and needed to be
removed. The Stout Park Advisory Council has only recently organized. Louise McCurry,
with the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference, and many park staff, especially
Nikki Ayanna Peters, our Park Manager, have helped our PAC start the process of
improving Stout Park. We’ve focused on minor repairs and some major tree removal as
our immediate concern.

Tree removal is now well under way. All but about a half dozen of our two dozen targeted
trees have already been cleared. Bravo to CPD for the speed with which they have been
removed. We expect to work with Barbara Woods at CPD over the winter to approve a
design for replanting. This depends on the removal of the last six targeted dead and
dying trees.

New playground equipment is one infrastructure improvement the PAC is
enthusiastically anticipating. Our playgrounds are tired and incomplete—some elements
have broken over the years and were removed but not replaced. PAC officers were
advised at a Parks Foundation workshop last summer that Stout Park is “on the list” to
receive a new installation. We’re ready for it. Our playground areas are well defined.

Muddy Baseball Field
Mud is the most consistent and annoying problem at Stout Park. It impacts the greatest
number of park users. The biggest source of this mud is the park’s small baseball field—
too small for anything but T-ball and informal play. The T-ball league, Legends of Hyde
Park has played in Stout Park in the past. But they did not use Stout Park this year.
Their registration numbers had dropped. But the unreliability of the field could have been
one reason they walked away from Stout Park instead of other local fields.
Our field has very poor drainage and is much too often too muddy for baseball. A
significant part of the dirt infield is a mud field for days after any rain. Dogs wallow in it.
It’s an annoying mess. The PAC has discussed various options for the future of the field
—including removing it completely or reengineering it dramatically [and expensively]. The
more modest fix we’re proposing now is to preserve the field, but to replace the dirt infield
with turf. Louise McCurry informs us that other ball fields within the Park District have
been adapted to turf infields. This strategy confronts our mud problem without involving
the removal of the baseball field.
The PAC feels that adding turf will improve the mud problem significantly. Our PAC is
very skeptical of a “throw some more dirt on top” alternate approach. If the Park District
does not agree to turfing as a solution, can the Park District evaluate the problems at
Stout Park’s baseball field and recommend how to fix the field another way? One way or
another, we need to fix this muddy mess.

 

News from late October 2015 by Kenneth East. Stout Park has been a beehive since the PAC meeting in October. There was a very successful clean-up day on October 10th. More than 15 people participated and three loads of wood chips were distributed, along with other improvements. Thanks to all who helped make the day a success.

Since then, the Park District has culled the greater part of the ash-bore diseased trees in Stout Park. As of this morning, five diseased ash trees were all that remained of close to twenty trees identified for removal. There were no workers there early this AM, but signs indicate that the Park District intends to complete the culling soon.

Even before the culling is complete, the change is dramatic. Many have already lobbied for new trees to be planted this fall. I've communicated with park district staff about plans for replanting. Here's the scoop:

The Park District will replant in Stout Park in the spring. The district's 2015 inventory of trees has already been allocated to parks that were culled earlier this spring and over the summer. The district is replacing trees in the same order that they have been removed.
The delay will frustrate some. But the upside of the delay is significant. There will be many more types of trees available in the spring and the stock will be in better shape. The park district will have Stout's new trees planted by a reputable contractor who warranties and maintains the new stock for two years.

The Stout Park Advisory Council has its work cut out for it between now and spring. The park district insists that any tree planting must conform to an overall, agreed-on plan. That's something I was anxious to have as a blueprint as well. The Stout Park Advisory Council will have time to develop that plan between now and next spring. Once all our trees have been culled, park district staff will do a walk-through of Stout Park to discuss planting options we can consider--both in placing trees and choosing species.

The PAC will work on the new planting plan over the winter. I'm sure we'll devote several of our monthly meetings to looking at options and refining our plan. Anyone who wants to join me and PAC officers for the initial walk-through with park district staff, please let me know. I'll try to schedule a time that works for the most people.

As always, everyone is welcome to our monthly PAC meeting. We hold meetings at 6pm on the first Tuesday of each month in the Nichols Park Field House. This month's meeting will focus mostly on old business--including reviewing a memo about the future of the baseball field in Stout Park. We will probably begin talking about putting together a replanting plan. But the core effort will kick in after we have the walk-through with park staff. That's likely to take place after our November meeting--and after the park staff have completed their already scheduled fall plantings.

The first meeting was on Tuesday, June 30 2015,at Nichols Park fieldhouse, 1355 E. 53rd St. elected officers and conducted business.

We discussed our Stout Park Walkthrough and Nikki reports she is working on the list of repairs needed. New member who would chair a garden project unable to attend today, but an officer is in contact with her and will take PAC volunteer form to her.
Safety Repairs include : broken benches on South play lot, resurfacing of Baseball Diamond, playground equipment: tire swing broken and not replaced
Trees multiple dead and dying trees -forestry dept has them on their very long removal list. Signs:Grafitti will be removed..
Members filled out their individual volunteer forms. Elections for officers were Kenneth East, PAC President, Fran Vandervoort , PAC Vice President, Leslie Judge Secretary-Treasurer . There were no other nominations and vote was unanimous for each officer.
Bylaws were voted in and a copy given to Nikki to send to CPD and a copy for each member.
Regular meeting date will be the first Tuesday at 6 pm. Members will attend the Chicago Parks Foundation workshop on July 11 at SSCC. And next meeting after the workshop on July 14 6 pm at Nicho

Stout Park was built during Urban Renewal. A leading force was community and social activist Florence Stout, who insisted on a having a sledding hill for the kids at the south end of the park. For many years the park was known by a number, but a decade or so ago it was named for Ms. Stout. It is very popular with kids and dog walkers and for ball, including Hyde Park Legends. It has two fairly new playgrounds and some more pieces are sought with perhaps a water feature. Problems include the condition of the ball field and that most of the trees, ashes, have died.