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Proposed Golf Course For Obama Presidential Center Comes Under Fire

CHICAGO (CBS) — The golf course that is proposed for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park came under fire in the second of three public meetings on its initial proposals.

A number of speakers said during a meeting Saturday that there is too much emphasis on golf, at the expense of Jackson Park’s athletic fields, hiking trails, pedestrian access and other features such as the Sunken Gardens.

“The natural restoration, which just got turned into a golf course (in the initial proposals) is outrageous, and frankly, disgusting,” said one woman who did not wish to be identified.

The golf course proposal, publicly unveiled Wednesday after a year of planning, would take the two existing courses, nine holes at South Shore Cultural Center and 18 holes at Jackson Park, and transform them into a single 18-hole championship course — one that Mark Rolfing of the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance said would be the “premier urban golf course” in the country and a possible stop on the PGA tour.

Golfing legend Tiger Woods is the designer. Rolfing counts Woods as a long-time friend. He said Woods is eager to go forward with the reconfiguration, which would move the clubhouse from the historic South Shore Cultural Center, at 7059 S. South Shore Dr., to the Obama library itself.

Left, the site for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park as it exists today; right, conceptual site map for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park once complete (Credit: Obama Foundation)

That drew even more criticism from community residents, one of whom said the natural restoration at the former country club “would be transformed into a fairway so that Tiger Woods can hit a golf ball across the beach.”

Bird watchers said they liked the proposed closure of Cornell Drive. Kenneth Newman disagreed and argued in favor of better access and better security in and around the proposed Center.

“I don’t watch birds. I don’t concern myself with certain things, (and) quality of life type things are not really my big issue,” he said. “But when I go to the beach, I like not getting shot.”

Another man argued that closing Cornell Drive and obliterating the intersection of 63rd Street and Cornell would erase a historic landmark that commemorates the starting point for the world’s first auto race.

One man drew applause when he said the Presidential Center is being jammed into a park that already has too little space for everyday use, and said the proposal to place it in Washington Park should be revisited.

Convenors stressed proposals are all preliminary and could change because of the community input.

A third meeting is scheduled at 6 p.m. Tuesday at La Rabida Children’s Hospital.

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