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Why Does Ryan Harris Park Not Have a Field House? Group Demands Answers

By Mauricio Peña | November 13, 2014 7:25pm
 Englewood residents have been working to get a field house at Ryan Harris park for more than five years.
Ryan Harris Park
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ENGLEWOOD — Residents who live near Ryan Harris Memorial Park posed a pointed question Thursday: When will a promised field house for the park be built?

At a press conference Thursday, the anti-violence Englewood Political Taskforce demanded answers on the status of the field house, which they say they've asked for for more than five years.

Their concerns echoed those of Sabrina Harris, the mother of the park's namesake, 11-year-old Ryan Harris. Harris was brutally raped and murdered near the park more than 16 years ago.

"We've been asking the Park District to put a bathroom facility" in the park for more than five years, said Darryl Smith, a lifelong Englewood resident and president of the taskforce. " ... The money has already been allocated. What's the hold up?"

Since 2009, state Sen. Jacqueline Collins has secured more than $350,000 to move the project forward. Ald. Rod Sawyer (6th) has also set aside at least $100,000, officials said.

Park District officials didn't respond to a request for comment.

Collins, who met with a Park District representative earlier this summer, said the project is at a stalemate.

"The residents are adamant about the bathroom facility and the Parks District is concerned for the safety of the children by building a bathroom facility without an attendant to supervise," Collins said.

Collins plans to tour other parks to see what alternatives are available if the stalemate can't be resolved.

"I know some of the residents feel as though there is a disparity," Collins said. "There needs to be an investigation as to whether there have been facilities built without an attendant to make sure this is a stance the Park District has adopted across the board and they are not singling [Englewood] out."

Officials with the Chicago Park District did not return calls seeking comment about the project.

The lack of movement on the project has Englewood community residents like Smith upset that their efforts have been ignored by the Park District.

"I hate to compare but you look at Hyde Park or Mag Mile — they look great and then you come out here," Smith said. "We're in Englewood. We get the bottom of the barrel. Maggie Daley Park is beautiful, the people that live there reflect the type of park you get.  Just a fraction of that money could make this park beautiful with a full field house but we're not asking for a full field house we're just asking for a bathroom facility. We aren't asking for anything extravagant."

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