Fifth Ward aldermanic candidates have differing housing and development proposals, but the 10 who showed up to a Sunday, Jan. 15 forum agreed that trees in Jackson and South Shore Park should stop getting cut down.
But much more of the debate at the forum, organized by the group Save Jackson Park and held at Hyde Park Union Church 5600 S. Woodlawn Ave., focused on homeownership, protections for renters, reparations for Black residents and development.
Economic development and housing affordability in the 5th Ward have long been concerns for constituents. But as investors buy more property around Jackson Park, especially in South Shore, gentrification worries have soared.
Voters oppose cutting down thousands of trees in Jackson Park and South Shore for Obama Center, golf project
By Maddie Ellis
Nov 13, 2022 at 5:00 am
Residents of Chicago’s South Side overwhelmingly voted to oppose the removal of thousands of trees because of construction around the Obama Presidential Center and a proposed golf course project.
The nonbinding referendum was added to the ballot in seven precincts through the efforts of Save Jackson Park, a group that advocates for the park and South Shore Cultural Center Park. This group is fighting for the city to stop removing trees for the sake of development and instead preserve existing ones due to ongoing public health concerns for the city’s tree canopy.
“At what point do we start respecting that we need trees to breathe, especially in Chicago?” said Jeannette Hoyt, founder of the group.
Hoyt said the group wanted to put tree preservation in the hands of voters to “give residents a voice.”
“If we hadn’t won, I would have stopped trying,” Hoyt said.
Residents were posed this question on Tuesday’s ballot: “Shall the city of Chicago and the Chicago Park District stop cutting down trees in Jackson Park and preserve the trees in South Shore Cultural Center Park?”
Results show that about 80% of respondents in each precinct answered yes.
Construction of the Obama Center in Jackson Park involved the removal of more than 300 trees on site and in the future, more than 350 throughout the park for traffic flow, according to documents
Tiger Woods’ company, TGR Design, has also proposed the restoration of the two parks’ golf courses by combining them into one 18-hole PGA-worthy course. According to documents of the design, this development could involve removal of 2,100 trees from the parks.
Construction for the Obama Center began in 2021 and most on-site trees have been cleared. To manage traffic, CDOT has also proposed removing trees to widen certain roads around the park, including Stony Island Avenue.
The Obama Center said in a statement that the site’s conversion of parts of the park will add 3.7 acres of parkland and the landscape will “include more trees than existed before we began construction.”
“The center will increase the amount of green space in Jackson Park that will be accessible to all,” according to the statement.
Meanwhile, the proposed restoration of the two golf courses at the parks has not made ground. Planning began years ago, with former President Barack Obama calling Tiger Woods to take on the project. According to TGR’s website, the proposed golf course would “maintain a traditional parkland aesthetic accentuating the natural features” while focusing on “playability” with wider fairways. TGR Design did not respond to the Tribune’s request for comment.
“The thing that makes Jackson Park golf course so extraordinarily gorgeous is that the trees are interspersed throughout, as like you’re walking through an urban parkland,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt received documents about the TGR Design proposal in March via a Freedom of Information Act request to the Chicago Park District. One page outlining the site’s ecology states that the existing Jackson Park golf course is characterized by mature canopy trees. More than 500 heritage trees can be found on the course and the nearby park at the South Shore Cultural Center, according to the document. A heritage tree is a large tree often considered irreplaceable because of its age and ability to filter air, shade homes and provide habitat.
A table in the document shows that on the Jackson Park golf course, around half of the heritage trees are slated for removal, and at the South Shore site, 110 out of 163 identified heritage trees would be removed.
“The removal of trees will have a significant impact to the Jackson Park and South Shore Park site,” the document states.
The Chicago Park District said in a statement that it plants 3,000 trees annually.
“As with any capital endeavor that requires the removal of trees, the district is committed to replacing each tree as part of the project scope,” the district stated.
The proposed removal of trees in these neighborhoods doesn’t appear to align with the mission of the city’s Our Roots initiative, which aims to plant 75,000 trees in five years. Chicago lags behind many other cities in overall canopy coverage, and areas with fewer trees are predominantly concentrated on the South and West sides.
Hoyt said the cumulative removal of trees poses a public health danger. In Chicago, 16% of families have a child or children who have been diagnosed with asthma, according to a 2020 report from Lurie Children’s Hospital and the Chicago Department of Public Health. This rate is higher than the state and national levels of 11% and 12%.
“We don’t quite know what to do about violence; it’s a multifaceted problem, but asthma’s pretty straightforward,” said Hoyt, who has a master’s degree in public health. “It’s air quality.”
Removing old, large trees will be detrimental to air quality, Hoyt said, a problem that planting new saplings can’t solve.
“A sapling does not create air for anybody,” Hoyt said. “The older the tree, the larger its tree canopy, and it’s the leaves that sequester carbon dioxide, filter particulate matter and remove sulfur dioxide from our air.”
The TGR Design layout also puts the 15th hole through the South Shore Nature Sanctuary. The 6-acre sanctuary opened in 2002 and is a stopover point for birds during spring and fall migration.
Referendum a victory for environmental group that opposes tree removal on South Side
WBBM NEWSRADIO 780 AM & 105.9 FM
(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Chicago environmentalists who fear hundreds of trees will be removed from the South Side are hopeful they’ve achieved a symbolic victory with a ballot referendum.
The referendum, to be floated in June, would be non-binding and asks if the city should allow the chopping down of any more trees.
Advocates say Jackson Park Golf Course expansion will involve hundreds of trees being cut down, demand that community have a say
BY TARA MOLINA
MARCH 21, 2022 / 10:41 PM / CBS CHICAGO
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago advocacy groups continue to fight the removal of trees in Jackson Park.
They say the Jackson Park Golf Course expansion plans mean hundreds more trees will come down - on top of the more than 800 trees that will go once the Obama Presidential Center construction is complete. As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, the organizations formally petitioned the city Monday.
They want the golf course expansion plan to be put up for a vote; for the city to allow those who live near Jackson Park to have a say in whether or not the trees go.
Jackson Park is full of arboreal beauty. And you'd be pressed to find anyone who knows and appreciates them quite like Jeannette Hoyt does.
She pointed out one tree called a "legacy tree" or a "heritage tree," that she said is "probably about 150 years old."
Here are some of the publications that have written about the need to save Jackson Park and our efforts to do so.