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With Riot Fest Over, Cleanup Begins at Muddy Douglas Park

By  Stephanie Lulay Alex Nitkin and Ted Cox | September 14, 2015 3:56pm 

 Crews clean up Douglas Park after Riot Fest 2015.
Crews clean up Douglas Park after Riot Fest 2015.
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DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin

DOUGLAS PARK — They came, they saw, they rocked, and now that Riot Fest goers are gone, efforts to clean up a muddy Douglas Park are already underway.

Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) said Riot Fest organizers and Park District leaders expect to know how long cleanup of the park will take — and how much it will cost — before the end of the week. Officials have not yet compiled a complete assessment of turf damage, he said Monday.





Riot Fest crowds faced heavy rain at the fest Friday and early Saturday.

Cleanup and teardown was already underway Monday morning, the alderman said. Scott represents the the city's 24th Ward, which includes the north end of Douglas Park. Riot Fest was staged on the south end of the park. 

Park district officials are expected to do a walk through of Douglas Park on Thursday or Friday to determine if additional restoration, cleaning or repair is needed. If additional repair is needed, Riot Fest will be responsible for the cost, according to the park district's contract with the fest.

Crews clean up Douglas Park after Riot Fest 2015. [DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin]

It is unclear when the south end of the park will reopen to the public. Park district officials did not yet have an estimate Monday, but a sign at 19th Street & California posted by Riot Fest said the park would reopen for public use on Tuesday.

Riot Fest officials did not immediately answer questions Monday afternoon.

A sign at 19th & California says the park will reopen to the public Tuesday. [DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin]

Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), whose ward neighbors Humboldt Park, Riot Fest's old stomping grounds, attended the fest at Douglas Park Friday and Saturday. The lawn damage he observed at Riot Fest was normal, he said Monday.

"The Park District said to me, ‘This is what happens at fests. It happens at Lollapalooza, it happens at Pitchfork, North Coast, and they’re committed to fixing it up,'" Moreno said. "They went above and beyond when they were in Humboldt Park.”

After facing pushback from the Humboldt Park neighborhood, Riot Fest organizers confirmed in May that the punk rock fest would be moved to Douglas Park in North Lawndale. The move came Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) vowed to bar Riot Fest from setting up shop for a fourth year in Humboldt Park.

Maldondo could not be reached Monday.

Douglas Park was a leading contender as tensions rose in Humboldt Park because it is similar in size and layout to Humboldt Park.

Sound a concern

Scott, who lives close to Douglas Park, was on site at Riot Fest Friday and Sunday, catching performances from No Doubt, Ice Cube and Damian Marley. At some points during the three-day festival, noise was a concern for neighbors who border the park, he said.

"I know in some cases it was loud," said Scott, a former Park District manager. "[But] overall it was a safe, fun, festive and successful weekend."

Tasha Last, whose home borders the park on 19th Street, said it was loud, but "responsible loudness."

"Not too over-the-top. I mean, they didn't go late. My neighbors are always being loud too, this wasn't a big deal," she said. "I take the CTA, so traffic wasn't a problem for me. No big complaints."

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who represents the south end of the park where Riot Fest was staged, did not immediately return calls Monday.

Traffic flow

Traffic "wasn't bad at all" on surrounding streets, parking issues were minimal and top police officers told Ald. Scott there were no major incidents at the fest.

"In my opinion, traffic flow was actually much better than I thought it would be with bringing that many people to the neighborhood," Scott said.

John Howard, who also lives on the south end of Douglas Park, said permit parking kept concert goers from monopolizing street parking.

"You need permit parking to park on this street, so some people tried to park here, but they got turned away," Howard said. "The music ended by 10 every night, and by 10:15 there wasn't anybody out here. Got 'em all out fast."

But not all neighbors agreed.

Alejandro Mendoza, who lives a few blocks north of the park, said his block was relatively quiet during the fest, but he still wouldn't want to see the fest return next year.

"I don't support the festival. Noise was OK, but traffic was a huge problem. I work in Riverdale, and my commute took twice as long this whole last week," he said. "I don't want it to come back next year."

Calling the weekend "very positive," Scott said he can't say for sure whether he'd support Riot Fest's return to Douglas Park until he knows how much time it will take organizers to repair the turf at Douglas Park.

"I can not say yes or no until I find out the time in which it takes them to repair Douglas Park, [obtain] all of the information on number of employees [they hired from the community] and how much they made to know if it is a good community decision going forward," Scott said.

Riot Fest hired more than 300 temporary workers from the surrounding neighborhoods and helped sponsor the Chicago Westside Music Festival, a free community concert that featured headliner Bell Biv Devoe in August.

If the partnership does move forward, Scott said he would like to see Riot Fest engage more with the community next year to ensure local business owners and workers benefit from the fest.

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