Pressure Pack Posits Parks in Peril

We’re used to thinking of parks as forever places.  Permanent municipal installations that often have been here since we were born, and will remain long after we’ve passed.

But not so fast, says Friends of the Parks, the Chicago group that pops up every time someone even thinks about placing a brick near Grant Park.  Taking a page from Preservation Illinois, it’s put out a list of the city’s most endangered parks.  Public parks.  Public spaces that legally belong to you and me that are being misused, threatened, and abused.

The list contains a few entries that you probably expect.  At the top is the parking lot near Soldier Field where George Lucas wants to put his new museum.  The apparent logic is that a parking lot inside of a park is also a park, and must be preserved.  Tailgaters rejoice.  Also on the list are Jackson Park, the South Shore Cultural Center, Washington Park, and Harrison Field.  All have been mentioned as potential landing places for the Barack Obama Presidential Library.

Naturally, Northerly Island is on the list because of the so-called “temporary” concert venue that brings in big flipping wads of suburban cash, but keeps the suburbanites safely isolated from the rest of the city.  Missing from the list is Butler Field in Grant Park, which has had the “temporary” Petrillo Music Shell (236 South Columbus Drive) temporarily located on it for 36 years.

But there are also a few parks that you’ve probably never heard of, and some that are in predicaments that might make you scratch your head.  For example, Iriquois Landing down near 95th Street, which is being used by the Army Corps of Engineers to store muck dredged up from local waterways.

Friends of the Parks sent over an infographic explaining their list.  If it’s a little small on your computer, click the graphic to embiggen it.  And after the table is the FOTP press release.
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Chicago, Illinois – To further its 40 year mission of protecting Chicago’s legacy of parks and open spaces, Friends of the Parks (FOTP) has prepared a Top Ten Watch List of Endangered Parks and Open Spaces. The Top Ten Watch list includes parks and open spaces which are threatened or have an uncertain future due to inappropriate development, neglect, inadequate funding, damaging policies, or harmful Administration actions. In the future, FOTP will compile a similar annual list based on nominations from concerned citizens and land use experts. Topping this year’s list is the proposed lakefront site of the Lucas Museum and Chicago historic parks that may be impacted by the siting of the Obama Presidential Library.

“In the next 30 years, Cook County is expected to grow by almost 17%, adding over 850,000 residents and over 435,000 more jobs. This growth further creates the convergence of adverse forces: the demand to build in our urban open spaces versus the need of city residents and visitors to access these open areas as a respite from increasing urban density,” says Cassandra Francis, President of Friends of the Parks. “This is why it is so important to preserve and expand our city’s open natural areas. Our parks and open spaces are the ‘lungs of the city’, providing not only crucial quality of life benefits, but also increasing the competitiveness of Chicago relative to other North American cities.”

By publicizing the Top Ten Watch List, FOTP hopes to spur local advocacy efforts and build support to preserve parks and open spaces. The listed sites are in imminent danger and deserve regular scrutiny because of potential future threats to their integrity. “Our Endangered Open Space Watch List” explains FOTP Board Chair Lauren Moltz, “will help raise public awareness of threats to parks, protect vulnerable landscapes and keep citizens focused on the benefits of open space as our city grows.”

FOTP looks forward to working with the City, the Chicago Park District, Cook County and other public land owners to create opportunities to preserve our parks and open spaces, our region’s greatest natural assets. With the large amount of vacant land in our city and county, FOTP encourages local leadership to desist from building in our parks and open spaces and rather target underutilized, unimproved vacant sites throughout the city which can benefit from economic development, increased visibility and new construction.

FOTP is a 40-year old non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve, protect, improve and promote enhanced use of parks and open spaces throughout the Chicago area for the enjoyment of all residents and visitors. We advance our programmatic, educational, and policy work with the support of our members, donors and volunteers and through partnerships with environmental, governmental, corporate and community organizations. FOTP has increased private and public commitment to Chicago’s parks and open spaces through establishing park advisory councils, producing community and corporate stewardship programs, developing and renovating parks and playgrounds, placemaking and presenting public workshops and lectures to create an informed citizenry.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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