Maggie Daley Park: Opening Day Controversy

Maggie Daley Park: Opening Day Controversy
The ice skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park is set to open Saturday. (Chuck Berman, Chicago Tribune)

Two years and $60 mil later, Maggie Daley Park, (phase one) is about to open. On Saturday, the quarter-mile ice skating ribbon and the children’s playground will finally be accessible to the public–but not without controversy.

With many already angered over the loss of nearly 900 large established trees that had to be destroyed in order to make way for the park, more fuel was added to the fire yesterday when the city reversed its decision to allow dogs in the park.

Residents throughout the downtown area along with many nearby Lakeshore East residents are calling foul—and promising not to let sleeping dogs lie.

It is unfortunate that what should be a tribute to a beloved First Lady of Chicago is causing a major division among the community.

We have heard from many families who look forward to coming to the park. But we have heard from others such as Lakeshore East resident and fifth generation Chicagoan Kimberly J. Soenen who calls the park “a tragic, catastrophic, embarrassing insult to Frederick Law Olmsted and all who fight for progressive urban planning and green spaces in Chicago”  suggesting that,  “The way to draw families to Chicago is not by erecting a Dollywood or a circus on the choicest green space the city has to offer.”

Soenen describes the day the residents watched as hundreds of oaks, elms and ash were torn down along with the meadow being destroyed, similar to witnessing “a fire-or a rape–with many residents in tears.”

Despite the tears and controversy, the project moves ahead with the ribbon cutting scheduled for 11:30 a.m. tomorrow. The ice skating ribbon which holds 700 skaters, will stay open through March 1. Admission will be free tomorrow with skate rentals costing $12 after opening day.  In the summer the skating ribbon will be used a walking path.

A spring opening is on the horizon for the rest of the park which will remain fenced off until weather allows for the construction to be completed.

As far as our four-legged friends, the debate continues with residents taking sides, petitions being circulated and a dog sit-in the the works for December 18. Stay tuned.

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