Chicagoans Fight for Neighborhood Park

Chicagoans Fight for Neighborhood Park

Humboldt Park Field House and Refectory (Photo by Steven Kevil)

Many residents of Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood are mad about how treasured public space is and isn’t being used. Last week, they formed a neighbors group to get the annual music festival, Riot Fest, out of their park, and this week, it looks like Humboldt Park Beach, the city’s only inland beach, will not open. These issues have left many feeling like officials aren’t taking residents’ concerns seriously.

Last year’s Riot Fest was held during a rainy September weekend. When it was over, the park saw significant damage that Riot Fest did not repair in a timely fashion. The impact of Riot Fest isn’t unique; many city-dwellers across the U.S. complain about festivals that take over public space come summer.

Last Friday, about 100 Chicagoans rallied at the park’s field house with stacks of petitions from residents demanding that the annual punk and alternative music fest be relocated. According to the Chicago Sun Times:

A spokeswoman for Riot Fest declined comment Friday on the residents’ rally, instead reiterating Riot Fest founder Michael Petryshyn’s stance that organizers already had invested $152,000 in park restoration with $30,000 in further improvements on the way.

Going forward, Riot Fest is “preparing plans and dedicating additional resources” to make certain the 2014 damage will “never be repeated,” organizers said.

“I fully support the concerns and needs of the residents of this ward,” Alderman Roberto Maldonado told the Chicago Sun Times. “Unfortunately, Riot Fest has outgrown the limited confines of our small Humboldt Park community. I would be happy to work with Riot Fest to find it a new home where it can continue to grow and become one of the most successful musical fests in Chicago.”

A decision to not open Humboldt Park Beach this season came with little to no community input. According to DNA Info Chicago:

Around 150 people, many with toddlers in tow, showed up to a special meeting of the Humboldt Park Advisory Council Tuesday night, more than a month after residents started a petition to keep the beach open after years of rumors of its demise.

Last month, a Park District spokesman told DNAinfo all of the city’s beaches were “scheduled to open as planned.” But that changed Monday night, when Park District Director of Planning and Construction Ray Rejman said there are currently no plans to re-open the Humboldt Park beach, which is now dry.

“Humboldt Park has a real problem — while other parks around us have all received larger budgets, ours has been cut,” Morgan Halstead, a 10-year Humboldt resident, told DNA Info Chicago. Halstead has spearheaded efforts to draw community attention to the underfunded beach.

The Park District’s Rejman says that a second meeting to discuss the future of the beach will be scheduled in the coming weeks.

Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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Tags: chicagoparkspublic space

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