In a March 29, 1975 Chicago Tribune article, the late Bobbie Raymond, founder of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, remarked, “We all have our areas of ignorance,” adding, “and I think some people like to see other communities fold.” These words continue to resonate today, particularly when Wednesday Journal refers to the space south of the current Oak Park Village Hall as an option for a new free-standing police station. After perusing the May 26 Wednesday Journal editorial, I explored southeast Oak Park and discovered what they meant.
The proposal is to destroy the public “park” referred to as the “village green” and replace it with a concrete structure. I disagree with the Wednesday Journal’s option as this land, bordered by Lombard and Taylor avenues and Adams Street is not “open space,” but rather, a public “park” explicitly designated as such in the municipal plaza plan adopted by the Oak Park Board of Trustees in June 1972.
The article, “Who Benefits from Public Green Space” states “lack of green space reinforces the urban heat island effect, causing low-income areas to experience disproportionately higher temperatures and worse air quality than their wealthier counterparts.”*
A UNICEF article, “The Necessity of Urban Green Space for Children’s Optimal Development” notes, “A simple walk in the park can significantly improve children’s ability to concentrate. Green views out of school windows correlate with improved academic performance. And children who grow up in greener neighborhoods are often less depressed, less stressed and generally healthier and happier.”**
Is Wednesday Journal promoting and the Oak Park Village Board genuinely considering demolishing, this village green, a public “park,” and replace it with a concrete building that will add to climate change, jeopardizing a thriving ecosystem, and negatively impact neighborhood children and the community as a whole?
*Richards, M. (2020). Who Benefits from Public Green Space. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/author/mallory-richards (September 19, 2020)
**UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/armenia/en/stories/necessity-urban-green-space-childrens-optimal-development (July 26, 2021)
Past Oak Park Township Trustee and
Community Mental Health Board member