Reporting Mike Parker
CHICAGO (CBS) — Residents of one of Chicago’s Northwest side neighborhood are demanding that the kids who use a park play lot be protected from possible drowning. They voiced their concerns to CBS 2’s Mike Parker who has this Original Report.
There’s a beautiful new play lot for the little ones at Eugene Field Park at 5100 N. Ridgeway. It sits alongside the north branch of the Chicago River. But the kids who play here are kept away from the dangerous waters by a rusted old chain link fence that’s only about three feet high at some points.
“It is not protective,” says Fr. Joseph Tito of Our Lady of Mercy Church. “Kids love climbing and kids love water.”
In 2010, Father Tito helped to bury eight-year-old Cashmere Castillo who had climbed that fence and fallen into the water. After a massive search, his body was found days later.
Since then, the Chicago Park District has not raised the height of the fence, despite pleas from residents, including Cashmere’s father. Willy Castillo says, “we recommended that it be at least six feet high. They know they’ve got kids playing there and that it’s a public park.”
Castillo’s neighbor, Dexter Conde, who has children of his own says he believes a new fence should be “7 to 8 feet tall at least, you know, for child safety.”
“They know they’re going to have something happen again in there,” says Willy Castillo. “It’s just a matter of time when it’s going to happen.”
When she learned that we were researching this story, 39th Ward Alderman Margaret Laurino says she contacted the Chicago Park District, the agency responsible for the fence. She says she was promised the fence will be fixed and made safer.
Some residents say they’ve heard that promise before.