By James Freeman
Next week former President Barack Obama’s eponymous foundation is hosting a summit meeting to promote its planned Obama Presidential Center in Chicago’s historic Jackson Park. But a hardy band of conservationists, determined to save local birds and trees from the designs of our nation’s 44th President, is planning a Friday court filing and a weekend protest.
In August this column noted a letter from the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation reporting that the Obama plan needed more study and that the council was “concerned that not enough detail is provided to properly characterize the nature and intensity of the adverse effects to the cultural landscapes” of Jackson Park and another park nearby.
Along with bureaucratic hurdles, the Obama construction project also faces legal challenges. Herb Caplan, president of a non-profit organization called Protect Our Parks, writes in Chicago’s Hyde Park Herald that his organization will file an appellate brief this Friday in its lawsuit against the city of Chicago and its parks department. The city prevailed in district court, but Mr. Caplan notes that his organization is not simply relying on a legal strategy:
On Saturday, Oct. 26, at 11:00 a.m., in a revival of the old Jackson Park Daniel Burnham Brigade, supporters of Protect Our Parks will conduct a reprise of the day in 1967 when numerous Hyde Park women symbolically “chained” themselves to endangered trees in Jackson Park with ribbons to save them from being cut down to make way for the expansion of Cornell Drive. The modern version of the Burnham Brigade is planning to tie new ribbons on more than 400 trees that the Obama Center has earmarked to be sacrificed to enable construction of the proposed Obama Center and its 22-story, 235-foot-high tower in the park.
Protesters will gather this Saturday at Jackson Park’s running track, located at 6100 South Stony. If it rains, they plan to gather on Sunday instead. And they aim to do more than prevent arboreal sacrifice. A recent post on the Protect our Parks website argues that the “proposed intrusive 235-foot Obama Tower and clear cut parkland in Jackson Park is a death trap for migrating birds.”
The organization correctly notes that the “birds can’t file lawsuits,” and therefore it’s up to humans to advocate against the destruction of the historic park.