‘Vision’ plan for Jefferson Park eyed by council
by BRIAN NADIG
The proposed 5-year plan being considered by the Jefferson Park Advisory Council calls for an enlarged playlot, a bocce ball court, year-round swimming, an outdoor concert area, a concession stand and other improvements at the 7-acre park.
The council will present the plan at its meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, at the Jefferson Park fieldhouse, 4822 N. Long Ave. It will accept public comment on the proposal for 90 days before it votes on a final plan.
“Let’s get people in here and have a real dialogue,” council president Lionel Rabb said. “If you have a great park, it will attract more families.”
The council will hold a fund-raising campaign for the project, which is expected to cost at least $3 million. Rabb said that he is not aware of any other park being rebuilt with private funds but that he is confident that the project can be completed within 5 years.
In the past year the council has recruited corporate and private sponsors to pay for movie projector equipment for the park, wind screens for the tennis courts and several outdoor festivals. The council also worked with an architectural firm in designing the improvement plan.
The park received a new playlot which cost $500,000 3 years ago, but under the plan it would be replaced with a play area at the east end of the park that would be approximately three times larger. “The playlot is too small,” Rabb said. “When we have an event, the playlot is rendered useless by the number of people.”
Plans also call for replacing the tennis courts and the basketball court near the southeast corner of the park with a bocce ball court and outdoor chess boards. The basketball court, where problems of drug activity have been reported, would not be replaced, but three new tennis courts would be constructed near the northwest corner of the park.
Renovation of the main pool and the addition of a toddler pool also are being considered, and the council is researching the possibility of enclosing the pool during the non-summer months so that it could remain open year-round, Rabb said. The Chicago Park District covers the pool at Piotrowski Park, 4247 W. 31st St., during the winter.
A concession stand would be built next to the pool that would be open during special events and the summer pool season, Rabb said. The stand would face a bandshell and a renovated athletic field, which would include a regulation-size softball field.
The council is seeking removal of a city Bureau of Forestry facility at the west end of the park to accommodate several of the changes. Rabb said that he understands that the city may be interested in moving the forestry facility elsewhere.
The proposal also includes improvements to the fieldhouse and to the park’s former craft shop. The shop has been closed for nearly 15 years, and the council would like to re-open the building, which was constructed 130 years ago and which once housed a library, but the possible need for handicapped accessible improvements has slowed its restoration.
The council plans to post a copy of the plan and an online survey about the park on its Web site, which can be reached at www.jmpac.org.
Rabb said that while input from staff members at the park was taken into account in the plan’s formulation, the council has had no formal discussions with the park district regarding the plan. He said that council members will meet with park district, city and state officials to gain support for the plan.
The park was formally renamed Thomas Jefferson Memorial Park in 1999 to avoid confusion with Nancy Jefferson Park, 3101 W. Fulton St., and Jefferson Playlot Park, 1640 S. Jefferson St.