Lolla '09 and Grant Park

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.


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  • Great post -- I want to see pictures of all the trash :)

  • In reply to rnagle:

    Hi Ryan,

    So do I, now that you mention it. I forgot to ask about that because I was surprised I got a call back with answers to my questions in the first place.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • In reply to rnagle:

    You rock Mr. Brown Thumb! It's always good to get a different perspective on Lollapalooza. I'm also glad that you're keeping your thumb on the ground at Grant Park. As a live music experimentor myself, I've always wanted to know what the affect of loud music has on the grass, trees and other plants that absorb all the rock n roll. Negative or positive? Do the plants enjoy the music? Any thoughts?

  • In reply to livefixblog:

    Hi Chris,

    First, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I've heard of studies or test, though nothing conclusive, that points towards plants benefiting from sound, in particular, music being played near them. Although, I think these "studies" may have been about the long term effect not just a couple of days.

  • In reply to rnagle:

    Ah, we can count on you to get the hort perspective on big music news! I've never heard of Turface, good to know!

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    Hi Garden Faerie,

    Really? I first heard of Turface in the late 90s when it was being used as a growing medium for bonsai trees even though it was a soil conditioner. Now it is common to hear that people are using it as a soil conditioner or part of a potting mix.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    "Peeing on the bushes...?" As a former Wrigleyville resident, I was often infuriated by Cubs fans using the alley behind my house - with me in the garden - to relieve themselves. It also happened in full daylight on my street, in front of the house, when these suburbanites were getting into their cars.
    I'm sure they were spending money in the neighborhood bars, but I couldn't have cared less about that.

    Ok... grumble ...grumble!! The thing is, when I moved in, you weren't even aware of when or if a game was taking place. Geez, how long ago was that?

    As for Lolla 09, I think I get it. I was a 'Metro' regular back in the day, but I never could stand the crowds at big venues.

  • In reply to AliceJoyce:

    Oh dear. I had to read your post twice! The first time I misread "infuriated," and was totally grossed out. :0)

    You poor thing having to deal with those people peeing on your garden. Ok, to hear that you were a regular at Metro makes me think of you in a whole new light. :0)

  • In reply to AliceJoyce:

    Thanks for a really interesting and creative perspective on this.

  • In reply to naxn:

    No problem Xan, thanks for commenting.

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