To the Editor:

I would like to voice my opposition to the Obama Presidential Center’s plans to locate in Jackson Park. I am honored, as we all are, that the Obamas selected Chicago to house this center, but there are many vacant areas where it could be housed that would not disturb the park and its trees. As you know, trees are essential not only for aesthetics, but they sequester carbon; cutting down between 600 and 1,000 trees is unacceptable for a city that has committed itself to reduce its carbon footprint. We need tens of thousands MORE trees in Chicago, not to be cutting them down.

I believe that the impact on Jackson Park will be significant. As I understand it, this will involve widening Stony Island Ave., Hayes Drive and Lake Shore Drive, as well as changing/eliminating sections of Cornell Drive, Midway eastbound and Marquette Drive. This means that a greater area of the park will be paved over. We are already a heat island because of all of the concrete in the city, so paving over more parkland is a huge mistake considering global warming. Is there a plan to create another park to replace all the land (20 acres) that the OPC will occupy? I would like to see it. As you know, Parkland is invaluable to the city, its people and the environment.

I have just learned that there are other environmental hazards. It will be located directly in the path of major flyways of migratory birds—a huge problem since we are losing our bird population at an alarming rate. Wouldn’t the Obamas want an environmental impact study done here before this goes forward?

There are so few natural areas left in Chicago! Jackson Park contains the Oak savannah ecosystem on the Wooded Island—one of the oldest and most valuable. Let’s not be shortsighted as we consider where to locate the OPC. Couldn’t we find a prominent, attractive location on the west side of Stony Island that would actually expand the park instead of cutting all those trees down and destroying the park?

Were there any public meetings about this? If so, I did not hear about them. There are so many other places this could be housed—why weren’t they at least considered?

The City should reconsider its MoA in light of the environmental impact of the OPC being located inside Jackson Park. We are a progressive city that is trying to de-carbonize and I am convinced that this is a bad decision in the midst of a global climate crisis.

Pamela Tate

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