CHICAGO (CBS)– The grass has not been cut in weeks and trash is scattered throughout the ground beneath a mural of three Chicago firefighters who died on the job. Now, one man in the neighborhood is rallying support to get Fireman’s Park cleaned up.
The small park in Logan Square, at the intersection of Milwaukee and Kimball, is dedicated to three firemen who died fighting an arson in 1985. Capt. Daniel Nockels, Michael Talley, and Michael Forchione are memorialized in a large mural at the park.
Thirty four years later, a sign at the park lists three broken rules: no littering, loitering and no alcoholic drinks.
Rob Klas walks by the park daily on his way to work. He said people clean it up from time to time, but he’s trying to rally support to get it cleaned up consistently.
“So it’s not knee high and there’s not rats frolicking through it,” he said.
Klas emailed the 35th Ward alderman’s office and the chief of staff told him it’s not a Chicago Park District property, but it is a City of Chicago Property.
“We’re still trying to figure out whether it’s technically a park or a plaza,” Klas said.
The alderman’s office told CBS 2 the West Logan Square Avondale Block Club entered an agreement with the city to maintain the space, but now many block club members are senior citizens.
“I just think the same people who have been taking care of it for 30 years are getting up in age and it’s hard to keep up with it,” Klas said.
Klas took to social media, reaching out to neighbors to see who would help him clean the park up. So far, he said he’s already found some neighbors on board to help.
“I think it would be really nice to walk by that park someday and say, hey, there are people that care about keeping the memory of these people alive,” he said.
Klas said the block club was very grateful for his efforts and told him they’ve been looking for someone to help out. A block club member said they still work on the park, mowing it every few weeks, but it is difficult to keep up with the amount of litter in the area. It sits at a busy intersection next to a CTA bus stop.
A Chicago Department of Transportation spokesperson said CDOT has also done work on the property in the past, mainly turning the water on and off in the spring and fall for sprinklers. The spokesperson said CDOT will be in touch with the 35th Ward alderman’s office to discuss their role going forward.
The alderman’s office said they are exploring ways to provide funding for the park, possibly by establishing a special service area. Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa could not do an on-camera interview. He sent CBS 2 the following statement:
Fireman’s Park was dedicated on October 22, 1985 as a lasting tribute to three brave Chicago firefighters who died in the line of duty while responding to a fire in Chicago’s Avondale community. Fireman’s Park is public land owned by the City of Chicago, and does not fall under the purview of the Chicago Park District. Since taking office in May 2015, I have worked to push the City to provide ongoing and regular maintenance to the park. This has included garbage pick-up three, sometimes four, times per week, and cleaning and greening twice per month by laborers with the Department of Streets and Sanitation. Unfortunately, this regular service provided by the Department of Streets and Sanitation is not enough for this high trafficked area. That is why I am working with local businesses and community stakeholders to include Fireman’s Park in a new Special Service Area (SSA) along Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square and Avondale. Through the creation of a Special Service Area that includes Fireman’s Park we will have funds to provide maintenance on a daily basis. Special Service Areas (SSAs) are a special taxing district that provide funds for beautification, cleaning, and maintenance services that cannot be offered by the Department of Streets and Sanitation. Currently, SSA’s can be found in Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Andersonville, downtown, and community’s across Chicago who have sought to create these special taxing districts to fund beautification and daily maintenance of public areas like Fireman’s Park. This long term solution for the maintenance of Fireman’s Park, and Milwaukee Avenue, is still in the early planning stages. In the meantime I will continue to ensure the Department of Streets and Sanitation provides regular maintenance, and work with community groups and interested individuals that are interested in beautifying the park.