It is a time for renewal, an exciting period for Chicago’s parks and for the city as a whole. Next March, when we are emerging from the dormancy of the winter, Chicago will awaken to spring with several exciting events full of color and energy to renew our spirits. JJLP’s exhibition, A Force of Nature: The Life and Work of Jens Jensen, will open at the Chicago Cultural Center. This first major exposition of Jensen’s work will feature both historic and contemporary materi-als (many never before been seen!) to provide an inspiring and scholarly look at the parks and private gardens he created, the evolution of the Prairie Style, and his conservation efforts. That same month, the Mayor’s Greening Committee will kick off Chicago’s Flower and Garden Show with a preview party focusing on the importance of “greenspaces”.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Park District (CPD) is currently engaged in renewing the major west parks to their former distinc-tion, bringing new life and vitality to the surrounding neighborhoods. In this issue, CPD historian Julia Bachrach chronicles their recent efforts to bring Douglas Park back to life, explaining the evolution of the park’s design along with present efforts. Professor Robert Grese’s article describes the conservation efforts of Jensen and others to ensure that our beautiful but vulnerable spaces endure.
Garfield Park is receiving some needed attention as well. At a recent community meeting for the Garfield Park framework plan, people spoke about what they excit-ing period for Chicago’s parks and for the city as a whole. Next March, when we are emerging from the dormancy of the winter, Chicago hoped a restoration of the park would include: a safer place for every age group, where people could go night and day to enjoy the park amenities. In the context of life and death issues — gangs, drugs sales, violence and severe economic need — I became more and more uncomfortable that my wish list – to incorporate modern needs into the park without compromising its historic fabric – would seem petty and effete. Would people care that Garfield Park was touched by a master designer? Would they want to preserve it’s historic character in the face of their monumental needs? Then, people from the neighborhood started talking about how proud they were to live near a place with a rich history, how they loved to hear old stories about the park, and how important it was to them to live near the park. Jensen’s original goal to bring nature to city people is still working.
Everyone is entitles to a home where
the sun, the stars, open fields, giant
trees, smiling flowers, are free to teach an undisturbed lesson of life.
To my notion, there should be a park area within walking distance of
every city resident.