Friday June 9:

  • Annual Luncheon | 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM

  • Conference | 2 – 5:15 PM

    • Session 1 | 2:00 – 3:30 PM

    • Session 2 | 3:45 – 5:15 PM

Concurrent Tracks:

  • FOTP Signature / Legacy projects

  • Public Participation in Park Planning

  • Spatial (In)Justice

  • Reception & Annual Meeting | 5:30 – 8 PM

Saturday June 10:

  • Conference | 8:30 AM – 5 PM

    • Morning Plenary – 10 Parks that Changed America | 8:45 – 9:45 AM

    • Reflections on Parks as Democracy | 9:45 – 10:15 AM

    • Session 1 | 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM

    • Lunch, Spatial (In)Justice Debate, Parks as Democracy On The Table Discussions | 12:00 – 1:45 PM

    • Session 2 | 2:00 – 3:30 PM

    • Working sessions | 3:45 – 5:00 PM

Concurrent Tracks:

  • FOTP Signature / Legacy projects

  • Public Participation in Park Planning

  • Spatial (In)Justice


Friday – Track 1 – Session 1 (2:00 – 3:30 PM)

Make No Little Plans: The Last Four Miles Initiative and Great Rivers Chicago 

Moderator: Sandra Del Toro, Deputy Director of Program and Resource Development at Friends of the Parks

Paul Boyd, Board Member and Last Four Miles Committee Chair at Friends of the Parks

Chloe Gurin-Sands, Metropolitan Planning Council

Sarah Cardona, Metropolitan Planning Council

Join a moderated panel to discuss the history of the Last Four Miles initiative, a Friends of the Parks led effort to complete Daniel Burnham’s vision of the entire expanse of our lakefront having public park access and juxtapose it to current efforts to revitalize Chicago’s rivers through Our Great Rivers Plan. Panelists will describe the conditions that led to their respective efforts, overlapping areas of opportunity and potential for partnerships. The panel will also explore the movement to engage communities in participatory planning in the context of waterfront parks, highlight the history of Friends of the Parks’ and partners’ advocacy and involvement in supporting communities, and convey the potential shared impact of this work past, present and future.

Friday – Track 2 – Session 1  (2:00 – 3:30 PM)

The City of Big Shoulders in Big, Regional Parks

Moderator: Dr. Jesse Mumm, DePaul University

Brenda Nelms, Jackson Park Watch

Leslie Recht, Keep Grant Green

Keith Kelley, Garfield Park Advisory Council

Charlie Billups, Puerto Rican Agenda

The first session in our Public Participation in Park Planning track will explore the paradigm divide taking place in large, regional parks. Hear a moderated panel of community leaders and “parktivists” discuss the battle taking place in their parks over appropriate uses and how those decisions get made. Topics of discussion will include: public engagement and for whom; what does robust public engagement look like; what are the costs of being participatory? Panelists will share their stories of residents organizing in response to questionable processes and lack of transparency in decision-making regarding their parks.

Friday – Track 2 – Session 2  (3:45 – 5:15 PM)

Little Parks, Big Politics, Loud Voices 

Moderator: Charles Barlow, Lecturer in Public Policy and Geography and Director of the Chicago Policy Research Team at University of Chicago and President of Williams-Davis Park Advisory Council

Debbie Liu, Ping Tom Park Advisory Council

Idalia Flores, Kelly Park Advisory Council

The Chicago Park District and City of Chicago’s processes for public participation in park planning processes can at times be lackluster.  From low-income neighborhood parks to downtown parks in wealthy neighborhoods, communities often find that they have to make up for the gap by demanding that the government incorporate public voice in the outcomes of their local parks. The second session in this track will adopt a similar approach to its sister session on regional parks. Join us for a moderated panel comprised of local park advocates who have learned the hard way how to raise a big voice in order to impact the fate of their little parks. They will delve into conversations exploring partnerships, community organizing, community engagement, and so much more!

Friday – Track 3 – Session 1 (2:00 – 3:30 PM)

Who Benefits/Whose Burden?  Pursuing Community Benefits Agreements for your Park

Allegra Cira Fischer, The Law Project of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights

Jawanza Malone, Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization

You don’t always hear about Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) in the context of Chicago’s parks, but join two expert presenters as they share some CBA best practices as well as their how-to’s regarding acquiring CBAs for the Chicago Olympics and the ongoing campaign for a CBA for the Barack Obama Presidential Library.  Presenters will also cover CBA investments in parks, green space and other environmental concerns.

The session will feature training by Jawanza Malone of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and Allegra Cira Fischer of The Law Project. Jawanza Malone, Executive Director of KOCO, was one of the lead organizers involved in securing the CBA attached to the Chicago Olympic bid; KOCO is also one of the lead organizations in the current Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Agreement Coalition.  Allegra Cira Fischer is a Staff Attorney at The Law Project of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and her work is focused on equitable development and community benefits campaigns in Chicago.  The Law Project is an Ally Member of the Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Agreement Coalition, providing legal and strategic support to the Coalition.

Friday – Track 3 – Session 2 (3:45 – 5:15 PM)

Assessing the Bloomingdale Trail: Impacts of The 606

Moderator: Dr. Huu Nguyen, The Bloomingdale Trail Park Advisory Council

Geoff Smith, Executive Director, Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University

Amber Kraft, PhD Candidate, University of Illinois – Chicago

Raymon Barrera, Logan Square Neighborhood Association

The Bloomingdale Trail, the heart of The 606 park system, was intended to provide a space for fitness, recreation, and transit, in part for under-resourced communities. Researchers and activists alike are examining the complex mix of social, economic, and cultural impacts resulting from the trail, which threatens to undermine neighborhood stability and equitable access. This session will explore those impacts as well as current efforts to address them.


Saturday – Track 1 – Session 1 (10:30 AM – 12:00 PM)

Whose PAC is It Anyways?

Moderator: Sharon Lewis, Bessemer Park Advisory Council

Cecilia Butler, Washington Park Advisory Council

Stephanie Franklin, Nichols Park Advisory Council

May Toy, Skinner Park Advisory Council

What exactly is a park advisory council supposed to do, anyways? Listen in as this moderated panel discussion of long-time park advisory council members shares their perspectives of park advisory council advocacy, which grew out of a federal government lawsuit against the Chicago Park District for discrimination against minority communities. Panelists will compare and contrast PAC advocacy and roles from the time they entered the PAC scene many years ago to present day, and explore questions including: are PACs independent and should they be; what is the relationship between park advisory councils and the Chicago Park District; can PAC advocacy and PAC fundraising and programming coexist; what does it mean to be a good (or bad) partner?

Saturday – Track 1 – Session 2 (2:00 – 3:30 PM)

PACs as Democracy?

Gabriel Najera, Najera Consulting Group

Join strategist Gabe Najera as he guides park advisory council members and other park partners to reflect on the efficacy and functionality (or even dysfunction) of Park Advisory Councils (PACs). This session will include a facilitated “World Café,” that is a guided, small-to-whole group set of conversations to tap into the collective wisdom of “parktivisits.” The experience will identify learning opportunities and will challenge participants to ponder the question: are PACs democratic? After participant members rotate around themed tables, reflective reports out will be made summarizing key elements that make PACs successful, or not.

Saturday – Track 2 – Session 1  (10:30 AM – 12:00 PM)

7 Secrets the Government Does Not Want you to Know: Advocacy 101

Douglas Chien, Friends of the Forest Preserves

We all want something. This presentation will help you get it. Like it or not, most of our protected lands are managed by a governmental entity. Come learn the basic framework for generating influence to get what you want, presented by Douglas Chien, Advocates’ Network Manager at Friends for the Forest Preserves. Douglas will go over the basic tenets of advocacy that the government does not want you to know and he will share some tidbits and anecdotes from his experience advocating on behalf of the forest preserves.

Saturday – Track 2 – Session 2 (2:00 – 3:30 PM)

Your Money, Your Park, Your Decision: Democratizing Park Budgets through Participatory Budgeting

Thea Crum, Great Cities Institute at University of Illinois at Chicago

Public parks are created and maintained largely with public dollars. However, deep community engagement in the planning and decision-making around how public dollars are spent in our public parks rarely happens. Over the past five years, this tide has begun to change. In nine wards across Chicago, Alderman and residents are using a process called participatory budgeting to make improvements to infrastructure in their neighborhoods including their parks.

Participatory budgeting (PB) is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Participants at this workshop will learn about the history of PB and how it works, and then will engage in interactive mock PB exercise. The session will end with a discussion around how participatory budgeting can be utilized to democratize public park budgets.

Saturday – Track 3 – Session 1 (10:30 AM – 12:00 PM)

Go Linear/Stay Local: Discussing Models of Stewardship

Ben Helphand, Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail and NeighborSpace

Paula Acevedo, Co-Chair, Pilsen Quality of Life Health Task Force

Antonio Acevedo, Co-Chair, Pilsen Quality of Life Health Task Force

L. Anton Seals, Jr., Executive Director, Grow Englewood Greater

Nancy Meza, Climate Justice Organizer, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization

Linear parks have the potential to create remarkable new open spaces for Chicagoans, but maintaining local control can prove challenging. With multiple actors laying claim to a park’s identity, programming, and purpose, park activists have struggled at times with meaningful democratic engagement for adjacent residents. Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail President Ben Helphand leads a discussion with linear park activists from Englewood, Little Village, and Pilsen on the challenges of stewarding these spaces.

Saturday – Track 3 – Session 2 (2:00 – 3:30 PM)

Concerts in Parks: A Riot of a Good Time?

Moderator: Juanita Irizarry, Friends of the Parks

Lynda Lopez, Grassroots Illinois Action

Concerts and festivals in parks are ways for cities to engage residents and to economically support their park systems. Revenue from permits, concessions and foot traffic can provide a valuable source of income for the city and for the surrounding communities; so why are they so controversial? Recently, Chicago has become known as offering the city’s parks as a venue for music events, hosting well known and long-standing festivals, such as Lollapalooza, Pitchfork and Riot Fest. Within the last few years, the issue has elicited various forms of media coverage, bringing to light both the positive effects of hosting large scale concerts as well as the various negative impacts on host communities. Join a moderated panel for a discussion about the complicated issue of concerts and festivals in our local parks, and hear why they were for or against the occupation of concerts in their neighborhood parks.


Track 1: Signature Projects (3:45 – 5:00 PM)

PACs and the Chicago Park District

Since the early 1980’s, park advisory councils were organized to be the voice on behalf of their park communities. In 1991 and in 2008, the Chicago Park District attempted to set rules upon these community park groups, but were unsuccessful due to push back from PACs. In 2013, the District succeeded in adopting guidelines and “Code of Conduct” policies. In this working group, PACs will discuss what is working and not working about these policies, and brainstorm what the relationship between them and the district could and should look like.


Track 2: P3 vs P4 (3:45 – 5:00 PM)

Privatization in Parks: Tools for Democracy

From football fields to festivals, Chicago’s parks are increasingly being used for private, outside interests. Friends of the Parks is creating a toolkit to help park stakeholders understand the privatization risks at their local parks; assess the potential impacts; and effectively proceed in the way they see fit. This working group is for those interested in contributing their input and ideas toward the development of this project.


Track 3: Spatial (In)Justice (3:45 – 5:00 PM)

Why Can’t We Have Nice Things? Park Planning Principles

Public parks are spaces for communities to gather; they are platforms for community action and critical spaces for play and recreation. Some in the Environmental Justice field have suggested that the impact on local neighbors and whether they might be displaced by park investments should be considered when decisions about the appropriate type of green space enhancements are being made. As Friends of the Parks revisits its “Park Planning Principles,” this working group will solicit participants’ input into as to community-based perspectives that should be incorporated into the organization’s park policy fundamentals.