Over the weekend Grant Park was ground zero for one of the largest music festivals and not being a music buff, or attendee, I found myself curiously drawn to news here on ChicagoNow and on Twitter about the acts performing and the crowds.
I was the Web 2.0 version of the grouchy neighborhood guy sitting in his lawn chair--water hose in hand-- yelling at the kids to stay off the grass on the parkway in front of his house.
Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were all tools used to keep an eye on all those kids under the influence of rock and or roll and what they were doing to one of Chicago's greatest parks, like peeing on the bushes.
I contacted the Chicago Park District to ask about what kind of wear and tear Grant Park experiences during a festival like this and what measures are put in place to protect the plantings and turf.
I spoke with Adam Schwerner, Director of Department of Natural Resources for the Chicago Park District, by phone today about Lollapalooza. I learned that fencing was used to protect trees and shrubs, like lilacs, in the south end of Grant Park and that Lollapalooza organizers go so far as to build structures around and over plantings to avoid permanent damage.
One of the biggest threats to the turf at Grant Park when large crowds gather is rain that can lead to the creation of mud pits. On Friday, the first day of Lollapalooza, it rained and the Chicago Park District took measures to protect the turf.
"Turface was used to dry the area by soaking up moisture and help curtail damage," says Schwerner.
Additionally, the turf in Grant Park will be aerated with a large machine to minimize the compaction that normally occurs with so many people walking over the turf. August being a hot and dry month it may take a while before Grant Park recuperates but it should happen once we get more rain.
Does a festival like Lollapalooza have a benefit for Chicagoans and our parks? Some income the Chicago Park District raises from service fees goes toward restoration of Grant Park.
"A large part of the service fees have gone towards planting trees and shrubs in Grant Park. In the past we replanted lillacs, crabapples and elms lost to Dutch elm disease," says Schwerner.
Chicagoans who don't live near lakefront parks also benefit. Each year Lollapalooza generates one million dollars for neighborhood parks. According to Adam Schwerner, this money is used to build playgrounds and fund programs in parks around Chicago.