A letter from our Executive Director:

Dear friends and members of Friends of the Parks:

We cannot thank you enough for your investment in speaking up for open space!

Friends of the Parks has been in the eye of the storm these last few years, and you’ve been right there with us.  Because of you, current and future generations of Chicagoans won continued access to our lakefront as together we fended off the fury surrounding the proposed Lucas Museum. But though the judge was with us, one lesson we’ve learned from that whirlwind is that there are not enough of us who understand the value of our parks.

And we’ve seen it again this year. Too many Chicagoans are not phased when someone wants to construct a building on public open space!  They don’t understand that Chicago only ranks 13th of 18 of the U.S’s high-density cities in terms of parkland per 1,000 residents, according to the Trust for Public Land.  We are this nation’s third largest city by population.  We should have more green space than that. We cannot afford to have our public parks confiscated—even for presidential centers!

But different projects sometimes call for different strategies.  We do not see a legal path to victory to keep the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) out of Jackson Park.  So we continue to lift up our demand that all green space and park amenities that are displaced by the OPC be replaced nearby. And we continue to voice concerns about the need for and the pace of comprehensive planning for Jackson Park and surrounding green space.

And our calls are being heard.  The City, the Chicago Park District, and the Obama Foundation launched a series of public meetings. But they provided slick presentations about the proposed Obama Presidential Center and PGA-level golf course and how they will elevate Chicago’s profile throughout the country and the world without divulging the fact that they plan to destroy existing natural areas and sports fields that are important to area residents. And, they haven’t given us reason to believe that the new golf course will remain truly accessible to the public.

Earlier this fall the Sun-Times Editorial Board wrote: “The Park District has set a deadline of October to create a final framework for the plan, and the Golf Alliance hopes to see construction begin as soon as weather permits in the new year. But on this one, we’re with the Friends of the Parks, which has called on the Alliance and the Park District to slow down, do a better job on their homework and make a better case.

In response, the Park District extended its deadline to early 2018 to complete of the South Lakefront Framework Plan, allowing more opportunity for community input and greater transparency.

Meanwhile, we’ve recently joined in with neighbors to draw a line in the sand challenging further Obama Presidential Center encroachment as they advance a new proposal to build an above-ground parking garage on the Midway Plaisance. That is historic, Frederick Law Olmsted-designed green space connecting the cherished South Parks system stretching from Washington Park to Jackson Park.  As much as they’d like to convince the public of this, an above-ground garage with a green roof does not constitute a park!

Just this week, news reports suggest that the Obama Foundation is rethinking their parking plans.  Advocacy works!  Together, we’re keeping them on their toes! (See the enclosed press release and article for more on our positions, partnerships, and press coverage.)

We are keenly aware that there are varying positions about the OPC among the community and the greater Chicago area.  FOTP board and staff have been actively participating in many neighborhood-level discussions and committees considering the pros and cons related to the Obama Presidential Center.  This has given us the opportunity to engage more deeply with South Side neighbors and to introduce some residents to park-related issues that weren’t on their radar screen.

In the process, we have gained more friends and allies, even people who thought of Friends of the Parks as the enemy because of our Lucas Museum stance.

Similarly, we understand that opinions among Friends of the Parks’ members are diverse and nuanced. Such are the challenges and joys of being a membership organization. We have appreciated hearing from many of you about your point of view on the Obama Presidential Center and other issues. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we trust that you will keep telling us what you think and challenging us to examine the issues and strategies more closely and from more angles!

Chicago has been battered by two fifty-year storms back to back—first the Lucas Museum, now the Obama Presidential Center.  In order to be healthy and resilient as a city and as an organization, it is incumbent upon all of us to invest in the development of more voices who can speak to the importance of economic development that does not deface or displace our parks. Chicago needs leadership that doesn’t force us to choose between the two. We can and should have more of both.

We need your help to raise up the next generation of advocates for open space, for our parks, for our lakefront. To identify and grow the next generation of environmental stewards. To recruit and engage the next generation of members and board members for Friends of the Parks.

Your partnership with us in this work means the world to us.  Will you click here to take a look at membership benefits and levels and sign up for early-bird 2018 membership today?  And maybe recruit a friend, too?  Plus, look below for our recent newsletters and media hits.

We truly cannot do this without you.

Most sincerely,

Juanita Irizarry

Executive Director

Here are a selection of relevant newsletters, news articles, and editorials about issues in or related to parks. For each section, the most recent articles are on the top (and the oldest articles are on the bottom).

 Friends of the Parks’ Newsletters

Fall Newsletter 2017

Summer Newsletter 2017

Winter/ Spring Newsletter 2017

Fall Newsletter 2016


Obama Presidential Center & Jackson Park

Friends of the Parks’ Press Releases:

Media Hits:


North Branch Industrial Corridor

Media Hits:


Last Four Miles Initiative

Media Hits:


DuSable Park

Friends of the Parks’ Press Releases:

Media Hits:


Festival Framework

Media Hits:


Rails to Trails

Media Hits:


Other Advocacy

Media Hits:


Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

Friends of the Parks’ Press Releases:

Media Hits: