Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fenced Out! Join Lakeside Neighbors On Saturday

Lakeside Neighbors block club is looking for some help to gain access to a community asset that has been blocked off from neighbors' use:

"In September 2012, Uplift Community High School fenced and locked the Arai School Campus Park, denying neighborhood residents access to this little park in the 800-900 block of West Leland Avenue. A fence was built around most of the park and the gates have been padlocked 24/7 since it was completed. Community members have appealed to the school administrators repeatedly, with no result, and are now concerned that the park will remain locked throughout the summer vacation months.

Lakeside Area Neighbors Association is hosting a gathering at the park between 10 a.m. and noon on Saturday, 1 June. The group is hoping to gather support for a stronger effort to get the locks removed from the gate.

THE BACKGROUND:  In September 2012, Uplift Community High School fenced and locked the Arai School Campus Park, denying neighborhood residents access to this little park in the 800 block of West Leland Avenue.  This school campus park was created in 2002 through a program between the City, the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Public Schools.  Under this program, the Chicago Park District provides funds to improve school lots, thereby creating spaces which can be used and enjoyed by the broader community during the hours when there are no conflicting school activities.  As former Mayor Daley described in a July 31, 2001, keynote address to The Urban Park Institute:
"One of our most successful efforts has been our campus park program. Some years ago, the people in charge of the Chicago Public Schools decided to pave over most of the school yards with black asphalt. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it doesn’t make a very attractive, or usable, space. So we are tearing out the asphalt; planting grass, trees and shrubbery; adding benches and playground equipment when appropriate; and turning these areas into campus parks. The school children use them on weekdays; neighborhood residents use them in the evenings and on weekends.
This has brought community residents closer to the schools, both literally and figuratively – and that’s vitally important when you’re trying to generate support for the public schools. We’ve already built 80 campus parks, which added 200 acres of open space, and we’ll complete 20 more campus parks by next spring."
THE EFFORTS TO DATE:  Members of LANA (Lakeside Area Neighbors Association) have met several times with Uplift school adminstration and its local advisory council, seeking to have the park's gates left open when school is not in session.  They have refused.  Their stated position centers on student safety.  No one takes issue with student safety, however, student safety is not an issue after school hours, on weekends, and over school holidays, including the summer months.

Stephanie Moore, Uplift Principal, insists that she will do as she pleases to keep the "athletic field" safe.  Through personal observation we know that the school campus park is not often used by the student body.  Last fall, some track and football practices and marching band rehearsals occurred in the park.  They were infrequent events.

46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman and his staff have met with Principal Moore regarding this issue.  It was his "understanding that residents would have access to the park when students were not in school and were not using the space."

Still the park is padlocked.

OTHER AREA SCHOOL CAMPUS PARKS:  There are 3 other area school campus parks, none of which have been fenced and locked:
  • Uptown:       Goudy Elementary School
  • Edgewater:   Senn High School
  • Lake View:    Lake View High School
So we are left to wonder, what makes Uplift so different?

THE REQUEST:  Please send notes to the following government representatives requesting that the park be re-opened to neighborhood residents when there are no conflicting school activities.
LANA would love it if you could join them on Saturday morning. But if you can't, please consider dropping a line to the above officials (click on the name for a contact page or email address), and cc Lakeside Neighbors, too, at


  1. Why doesn't someone just cut the pad lock? It doesn't sound like they have any right to lock people out. In fact, it sounds like they are illegally possessing the park after school hours.

  2. I'm sure that this is simply too dangerous and crime-ridden for that school property to be accessible to the public...but maybe some surveillance cameras can be installed for show, so that the area residents can see that their public greenspace is monitored while inaccessible.

    Quite a different approach taken by the Alderman's office, compared to a similar accessibility issue with Truman College that was raised repeatedly by Graceland-Wilson Neighbors. Maybe the police experts haven't yet advised that Uplift has to be fenced off in order to maintain safety? Or is it just closer to the Queen Consort's daily walks?

  3. I was dismayed to see the fence go up at this park - a bit of a nearby hidden gem I was concerned about loosing. Though I'm a bit confused as I do recall it being closed through at least some of the winter months, I've been to and in (via a non-locked gate) the park on two occasions in the past month or so, all after school hours - once 6:30pm or so during the week, once on a Sunday mid-afternoon.

    Maybe these were fluke instances; but I of course support both the intended use of this (as a park) as well as safety.

  4. Why is this even an issue?

    I have a bolt cutter.

    I have an angle grinder if it comes to that.

    You wanna get in there? I can get you in there. Believe me, there are ways. Hell I can get you in there before darkness falls and you can head over to Broadway and get nail polish on your toes if you want.

    Sometimes people in this neighborhood need to channel the tao of "The Big Lebowski".

    Seriously, cut the damn lock off and see what happens if you gather a group to sit down there.

    Do you really think Rahmbo would back the school principal if this becomes a better known issue? He has enough problems. Do you really think the police commander is going to arrest this alderman and his supporters? This alderman? It's not like it's 1987 and Shiller is creating and getting arrested at a tent city with her supporters on vacant lots.

    In my opinion this isn't much different than the damn not so good Sister/Nun owners of the Maryville property taking away public parking. Things didn't go there way so they lashed out. The principal here may not be happy with the newish alderman and, yes you guessed it, may be lashing out.

    Cut the damn lock off, call the press and sit your butts down.

    See what happens. NOTHING. End of story and the park is open to the public as it's supposed to be.

    Let it be written. Let it be done.

  5. IP, we look forward to seeing you there at 1pm today with your bolt cutters!

  6. USH,

    you should know I don't do Saturday mornings. Anything before 3pm on a Saturday is considered morning to me!

    I sleep in then I head over to the Ace on Broadway for some concrete patch to help with my hangover. Don't ask.

  7. Bear60640, are you still whining about that narrow strip of grass behind Truman College that was fenced off last year? Didn't Truman Security have this parcel fenced off to force residents to walk down a well lit paved sidewalk that has security cameras everywhere instead?

    You are comparing two pieces of property that are very different from one another. I bet a whole 60 seconds has been added to your walk home. Get over it.