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Olympic parks use questioned

Chicago 2016′s plan for use of parkland is “completely inappropriate,” including “legacy projects” that are unneeded and unsustainable, said Erma Tranter of Friends of the Parks. Hosting the Olympics in Chicago “only makes sense if they change the venues,” she said.

“In all cases where they have a legacy project, we find it troubling and inappropriate, not needed in the neighborhood, and unsustainable by the park district,” she said.

Tranter will join Randy Neufeld of the Active Transportation Alliance and Arnold Randall and Robert Accarino of Chicago 2016 at the monthly Creative Living In The City lecture on Thursday, April 9 at 12:15 p.m. in the Claudia Cassidy Theater of the Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington.

Noting the Chicago Park District has been steadily cutting back on staff and programs for several years, Tranter said, “There’s a big question whether the park district will be able to maintain anything” left as “legacy.”

In Washington Park an outdoor swimming facility is planned — along with a permament 10,000-seat ampitheater in the historic South Open Green, which is now heavily used for softball, baseball, soccer and cricket. But Washington Park already has indoor and outdoor swimming facilities, and the park district has had trouble maintaining public access to the indoor pool, she said.

“There are places on the south and west side that no pools,” Tranter said. “Why not build it where it’s needed?”

At Douglas Park, a proposed velodrome will be turned into a community center. But it’s right next to a spacious historic field house which houses a cultural and community center — where the park district has cut staff and programming.

At Northerly Island a “legacy” white water rafting facility would undercut ten years of planning the create a nature area there, Tranter said.

Other concerns include a tennis facility near the bird sanctuary in Lincoln Park and a hockey field in Jackson Park.

Plans to close Monroe Harbor for four years of construction prior to the Olympics will cost the park district $20 million in docking fees, Tranter said. “How can they operate the park district?” she asked. “Where’s the money supposed to come from?”

Venue planning was “all done behind closed doors,” she said — and existing park space was used because it doesn’t involve acquisition costs. “They’re not taking unused land and leaving new facilities,” she said. “They’re cutting into the limited park space we have.”

FOTP was not consulted by Chicago 2016 until after plans were announced, Tranter said. Then they were told that community meetings will be held after the Olympic evaluation committee visit — and that it will still be possible to relocate venue sites.

Neufeld will present ATA’s vision of what the Olympics could mean for biking and transit, said Margo O’Hara. ATA is working on a comparison of transportation benefits of previous Olympics with Chicago 2016′s proposal.

The group was completely surprised to learn that a large portion of the lakefront bike path would be closed, she said.

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