To the editor:

There have been many thoughtful statements presented concerning the importance for locating the OPC complex in the South Side and all are quite valid. The OPC certainly represents a solid commitment to the community. However, the combination of the persistence by the OPC Foundation to locate in Jackson Park and the reasonable legal objections from groups like POP have created only discord and no useful building.

Consulting historical drawings prepared by Olmsted/Vaux, the plan for Washington Park, Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance, reveals a magnificent scheme to create a ‘landscaped’ park encompassing 1,000 acres. For large cities, this open space concept was light years ahead of its time. Together, this park system, including Jackson Park, not only represented a cohesive open space, but it also expressed the social cohesion, spirit and energy of all Chicago in the late 19th Century.

This incredible triad of open spaces, now mainly void of its 1893 World Expo structures, but surrounded by modern development, offers an unusual opportunity to retain and preserve this natural gift as it exists today. For many, the beauty of this park system includes the wildlife, ponds, trees and graceful open lawns. Furthermore, this entire park system truly symbolizes the renewal of life through the cycle of the seasons and illuminates an important fact: Human beings can co-exist with their natural environment without imposing upon or attempting to dominating natural elements. Lois Wille’s literary work, Forever Open, Clear and Free should be noted by anyone interested in the preservation of Chicago’s natural spaces.

If the OPC complex is meant primarily to impact and elevate human life, then the insistence of the Foundation to locate this physical structure in Jackson Park should be of secondary concern. The clients themselves have commented: “it could be located almost anywhere.” Perhaps it’s time for the Obama Foundation to re-examine and prioritize the important aspects of its objectives and re-consider these few simple re-occurring questions:

* What is more important, a completed and functioning OPC complex on the South Side, or the continuation of an active legal challenge opposing the location of the OPC in a public park?

* Is Jackson Park the only suitable or available site to locate the OPC complex in order for it to financially survive?

* Should the Foundation seriously examine the logic for the incurred additional expenditures ($175 million) for remedial development of Jackson Park to accommodate the OPC complex?

*Should any private entity pursuing its personal interests create a precedent by recasting a public open space that is a documented historical “work of art?”

* Should any permanent structure representing a particular political party’s ideology be considered appropriate to occupy a local public park?

For many, city parks offer a sanctuary to escape societal pressures and offer an opportunity for a person to contemplate their own private thoughts and dreams. These same individuals may not wish to share their private moments in a park with a prescriptive message cast by a 235-foot concrete structure.

Future generations, on bended knees, will thank their predecessors for preserving, forever open, clear, and free green spaces in our ever-expanding cities.


Ray Pickens


(1) comment

Ross Petersen

Thank you, Ray Pickens. Well said.

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