Many remember Cole Park for the legendary basketball games that took place years ago when the summer pro leagues played in Chicago and pros and prospects made their way to the park for a pick up game. Also, watching the late Ben Wilson rule the courts and Southside Little League baseball.
Unfortunately, in recent years some remember the senseless violence that has occurred in the park. The violence prompted several events that brought out the Governor, Mayor, Police Superintendent and a host of other politicians and community activist. The annual Peace in the Park After Dark event brings law enforcement officers and young people together to spend a night in the park. Also, the annual Cole Park Classic is shaping up to be one of the premier basketball tournament in the city.
The Peace in the Park and Cole Park Classic events draw crowds and media coverage but once the cameras are gone so it appears the concern about the park. Recently, the Cole Park Advisory Council in conjunction with Friends of the Park asked the community to come out and help in the construction of the new Thomas Wortham IV playlot. This replaces the worn out playlot that the Chicago Park District had promised to replace for the last several years. There were flyers placed in the schools, stores, gas stations around the park as well as annoucements placed on Facebook, Twitter and EveryBlock. Although there were between 50-75 volunteers for the event most were not from the community. Why?
Contrary to popular belief, Cole Park is not high on the Chicago Park District's priority list. Per the recent Capital Improvement Plan, Cole and all the neighboring parks were only receiving minor improvements compared to other parks in the city. The Chicago Park District only paid approximately one third of the $300,000 cost of the new playlot. Some are stating that our new Alderman is at fault, but each park has an advisory council and community based organizations all talk about the parks at their meetings. I recently attended the preliminary budget meetings and the Chicago Park District made it clear that unless your neighborhood park has an immediate health and safety issue or there was a threat to facilities that generated revenues, your park was not a priority. They suggested that you look to the private sector and other governmental entities for assistance with improvements. Since, Cole Park doesn't have a large field house and not charge fees for the impromptu picnics and meetup's that take place on the grounds, it doesn't generate revenue.
So are we going to wait until the Chicago Park District decides to get around to our neighborhood park or will the community step up and take control of the park? We will see, the next Cole Park Advisory Council meeting is on
September 14, 2011
85th King Drive