Could a $30 million, Tiger Woods-designed, PGA-caliber golf course be replacing the current course in Jackson Park?
The Chicago Park District voted Wednesday to take the first steps to make it happen. But not everyone is happy about it.
The Park District Board unanimously OK’d an initial contract of just over $1 million to start research and engineering design work on the project. It would eventually combine the Jackson Park and South Shore Golf Courses on the South Side, in anticipation of an eventual $30 million overhaul that would be designed by Tiger Woods.
The Park District has pledged that 80 percent of the money would be raised privately – and they say that the goal is for a PGA-worthy course. District officials have also assured that the new elite course would not mean elite green fees, as they talked about continuing the course as a public asset for those in the neighborhood.
A host of community residents on both sides of the issue turned out for a packed Park District Board meeting Wednesday afternoon, with opponents declaring that the money could be better spent elsewhere, and that this project has been rammed down the community’s throat without public input.
“Often professional golf courses involve taking everything living out and putting in sterile soil. Is that what’s involved here?” asked Margaret Schmidt of the nonprofit Jackson Park Watch. “We need answers here.”
Juanita Irizarry of Friends of the Parks, which has often been at odds of any kind of expansion or building on current parkland, said she doesn’t trust the Park District to listen to community input since the project became publicly known all of a sudden.
“When you hold community input sessions at the very last minute trying to create the appearance of public input when the park district and the mayor have secretly been putting together a plan for a long time, you create mistrust,” said Irizarry.
Proponents of the Park District’s plans, however, say the golf course can be a catalyst for the community, and is in major need of upgrade.
“We suddenly have a chance to get some of the funding to improve our parks and make kids’ lives better, and we’re complaining about the fact that it’s going to have golf attached to it?” said Louise McCurry of the Jackson Park Advisory Council. “I’m personally ecstatic that my kids will have a new park to play in.”
The Chicago Park District issued the following statement Wednesday:
“The Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners today approved a contract that will allow for pre-work, including site planning, surveys, engineering, community process in support of the redesign of South Shore and Jackson park golf courses.
“The Chicago Park District recently announced the formation of the Chicago Park Golf Alliance. The goal of the alliance is to promote the game of golf in the city of Chicago by raising funds to upgrade facilities and enhance programming opportunities. As part of that goal, the Alliance hopes to raise money to renovate the historic South Shore and Jackson Park golf courses.
“The concept of renovating the courses dates back to the Jackson Park Framework plan of the early 2000s. Most recently, discussions on the potential project have been had with community stakeholders, including the local Alderman, the Jackson Park Advisory Council, frequent golfers of both courses, and community leaders. Public meetings will be scheduled in the near future. The Chicago Park District is committed to continuing the community process.”
The Obama Library and Museum will also be built in Jackson Park nearby and will displace an athletic field house. Many residents say it should be more of a priority to replace the acreage that’s going to be lost with the museum than to revamp an aging golf course.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz
Oct. 20: Artist and activist Yoko Ono visits Chicago and provides Jackson Park with a new public sculpture that’s being called “a landmark for peace.”
Aug. 3: The secret got out last week, but the Obama Foundation made it official at a news conference on Wednesday: Jackson Park will be the main home of the 44th U.S. president's library.
Aug. 1: Community activists tell us what they expect as the project slated for Jackson Park moves forward.