CHICAGO (CBS) — Smaller budgets, no programs and no control.
It doesn’t exactly sound like a day at the park. But one advocacy group said it’s the new reality in some Chicago parks, while others get a lot more. The details are in a critical new study.
Friends of the Parks said kids and families on the South Side who want to ice skate or take advantage of other programs often have to go to the North Side. And that, they said, isn’t playing fair.
“The (Chicago) Park District is investing the least in the communities that need it the most,” said Juanita Irizarry of Friends of the Parks. It’s a bleak takeaway from a new report on city parks that revealed South Side parks have smaller budgets and fewer programs than those on the North Side.
For example Hermitage in Englewood has a play ground, modest field house and one early childhood program.
But Independence Park in the Irving Park neighborhood has 94 early childhood programs. And the extra budget and staff that go with them.
“My children did all kinds of things,” remembered Jeanette Foreman of the Chicago Parks Consortium who said South Side parks were once robust, but said she made a startling discovery.
“That there were virtually no programs in the black and brown communities in Chicago for teens,” noted Foreman.
The study also found higher income communities like Lincoln Park are almost twice as likely to have capital improvement requests approved. If things don’t change, Friends of the Parks said it is prepared to play hardball.
“It would probably be better for all of us if we could collaborate and put strategies in place to do this without a lawsuit. But we always have that strategy in our back pocket,” Irizarry said.
Other key findings include that Latino communities in the city have the least amount of programs of any racial group in Chicago. And the city overall needs more parkland, lagging behind other high density cities.
Chicago Park District Superintendent Michael Kelly said the study was inherently flawed in its methodology and data.