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Harold Washington Playlot Complaints Spur Calls to Form an Advisory Council

By Sam Cholke | June 20, 2014 8:03am
 Neighbors are trying to form a park advisory council for Harold Washington Park.
Harold Washington Park Advisory Council Forming
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HYDE PARK — Neighbors are trying to form a park advisory council to rein in complaints at Harold Washington Park after parents and their kids jumped the fence to use the new playlot while it was still under construction.

“Most of the issue was about the playlot not being done on time,” said Timika Hoffman-Zoller, who is helping organize the advisory council. “Having an advisory council is like having eyes and ears for the park.”

Crews worked all winter to get the new playlot at 53rd Street and South Shore Drive ready for the spring, but parents became impatient when final checks for the new equipment seemed to drag on for weeks.

“Everyone jumped the fence,” said Ann Toebbe, who was at the now-open park Thursday with her 4- and 6-year-old daughters. “Once one person started doing it, everyone did it.”

Toebbe said that to parents at the playlot, the new equipment looked done in early May, but they weren’t allowed use it and by June up to 10 families at a time were jumping the construction fencing to use the new slides and climbing structures.

Once inside the construction fencing, parents found that a boat and sandpit donated by the Hyde Park Bank nearly 20 years ago had not been touched, which set off calls for a park advisory council to be formed.

The Chicago Park District did not respond to requests for comment.

“I’m hoping to join,” Toebbe said. “If you don’t advocate on the South Side, you don’t get anything.”

The organizing meeting for the council will be at 6:30 p.m. July 7 at the Nichols Park Field House, 1355 E. 53rd St.

“I think having a park advisory council is a win-win because you have more communication on both sides,” said Hoffman-Zoller, who is the president of the Elm Park Advisory Council in Hyde Park.

Hoffman-Zoller said on her walk through the park Thursday morning she noted that many of the complaints had been rectified, the older playlot structures were painted and prepped for more repairs and the boat pond was clean.

She said there is still ample reason to start the park advisory council because it keeps neighbors invested in the park to fix problems before people start complaining.

There are still unresolved issues about finding a location for dog owners who have used the boat pond and other issues, according to Hoffman-Zoller and others at the park.

The new playground will be dedicated during a ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the park.

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