Chicago Park District invests less in South, West side parks, group claims

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There are 7,600 acres of parkland in Chicago, divided up among 570 parks throughout the city. Thirty-five years ago, the Chicago Park District was under a federal court order to spend equal amounts of resources in minority and white communities. But, a new report from the advocacy group Friends of the Parks, concludes decades later, inequality remains a problem.

"Unfortunately what we have found is we have probably taken steps backwards from the progress that has been made somewhat of the consent decree," said Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Parks.

Friends of the Parks said its findings are based on data obtained from Freedom of Information requests to the Chicago Park District. The group says the park district is investing more money in North Side parks than South and West Side parks.

"That plays out in the Latino community having fewest park acres and the least capital investment in those parks," Izarry said.

The report also found programming for parks on the North Side significantly more robust than the South Side. It's a point Rosenblum Park Advisory Council member Jeanette Foreman made to the Park District Board on Wednesday.

"In my park, there are no programs for teens. That is the situation that connects directly to violence," Foreman said.

The park district blasted the report, calling most of its conclusions false.

"The idea that there is more programming and more money spent on the North Side versus South Side is simply not true. Those are hurtful comments that divide the city," Chicago Park District General Superintendent Michael Kelly said.

As for not enough parks in Latino communities, the park district said recently there have been several new parks renovated or added.

"I was proud to stand at a ribbon cuttings at Gately Park, Adams, Medill, Big Marsh - these are all projects on the South and West sides, huge projects, some of the biggest projects we have. Their assertions are false," Chicago Park District Board President Jesse Ruiz said.

Park District Board President Jesse Ruiz and Superintendent Michael Kelly also point out the Park District is moving its headquarters from downtown to Brighton Park, where it is adding 17 acres of new parkland in an area that is primarily Latino.
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