Save Jackson Park is a group of people who love Jackson Park. This jewel of the South Side was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, famous for their work on New York’s Central Park. Jackson Park has been a delight to park visitors since the 19th century and was the site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
Jackson Park is under threat. The Chicago Park District and the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance want to build a professional-caliber golf course in the park. There is already an 18-hole municipal golf course there. And just to the south there is a nine-hole golf course in South Shore. The proposed golf course was announced as one that would use the same footprint of these combined courses.
It’s a good idea to combine two aging golf courses into a single, improved course. What is a bad idea, in fact a terrible idea, is to appropriate extensive amounts of land in Jackson Park and adjacent to the South Shore Cultural Center to create a mega-course.
When the idea of the new golf course was presented to the public, we were told that only the land currently allocated to golf would be used. Yet when the promoters unveiled actual plans for new course — designed by Tiger Woods — the footprint was considerably larger. The creeping land grab is bad enough, but that it was conducted in complete secrecy is galling.
The proposed new golf course would eliminate or severely cut back the South Shore Nature Sanctuary, a glorious space for birds and butterflies, plants and nature paths. It extends out onto a spit in Lake Michigan that offers park goers a splendid view of the Loop. This would be lost if the golf course goes ahead as planned. The 12th hole of the new course would appropriate this land and this view for golfers.
The proposed golf course would also take over the land on which many popular elements of Jackson Park are sited. Jackson Bark, the South Side’s only dog park, would be wiped out. It also would mean the destruction of two basketball courts, a baseball diamond, a soccer field, several tennis courts, two children’s playlots, pickle ball courts, and a riding arena.
This massive intrusion of golf into areas now joyfully used by children, adults, and families pursuing other activities is a multi-million dollar affair. While the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance plans to raise funds to help build the course, they still expect the public to foot a significant part of the bill. No one is yet sure how much this will all cost and so no one knows what the taxpayer burden will be for a luxury golf course that only the tiniest percentage of Chicago citizens will ever use.
By eliminating so many popular and varied attractions in the park, this golf course will inevitably restrict or eliminate public access to the shoreline, one of the many reasons that Jackson Park is so valued.
To add insult to injury, this expensive golf course includes plans to close part of Marquette Drive. This will increase congestion and traffic, which hurts everybody, including folks who have never once set foot in the park but have cause to drive by it.
The community has no idea how exclusive the golf course will be. We fear that the course will have long stretches of restrictive fencing. We fear that cross-country skiing and other informal activities, which currently take place on the current Jackson Park golf course in the winter, will be lost forever.
A fancy, expensive, PGA-level golf course will cost far more to maintain than the existing courses. Will current golfers be able to afford to play there? Will the course be too difficult for them to manage? We don’t know. The Park District and the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance offer only vague assurances, but no promises or details.
A reasonable person might say: give them time to sort out the details. The problem is, those pushing for the golf course want it approved just a few months from now and have shovels in the ground in the spring of 2018. They want to do this even before various studies have been made public (such as one conducted on the effects on traffic) or even completed (such as the one on the number of trees to be sacrificed to the golf course), and before the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance has raised its funds.
Most importantly, this golf course proposal is being pushed forward in a manner that is becoming all too common: City entities, such as the Park District, and groups with City clout, such as the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance, offer nifty PowerPoints at meetings (sometimes held in shamefully small venues where citizens are turned away). The criticisms aired by members of the public are met with polite responses, later filed away, and still later forgotten. Citizens can talk, but they can’t actually be heard.
And these same government officials ignoring us now will be putting their hands in our pockets when the bills come due.
To lose so many lovely elements of Jackson Park to a golf course for the few at the expense of the many would be a disaster. It would ruin Jackson Park.
Mike Kelly, Chicago Park District Superintendent, has claimed he won’t put a shovel in the ground until he has community support and at least $5 million in private contributions. Neither of those conditions exist. So why the high-pressure push?
Join us and say “no” to the Tiger Woods golf course and “yes” to Save Jackson Park.