“Residents of Chicago’s South Side overwhelmingly voted to oppose the removal of thousands of trees because of construction around the Obama Presidential Center and a proposed golf course project.
“The nonbinding referendum was added to the ballot in seven precincts through the efforts of Save Jackson Park, a group that advocates for the park and South Shore Cultural Center Park. This group is fighting for the city to stop removing trees for the sake of development and instead preserve existing ones due to ongoing public health concerns for the city’s tree canopy.
“‘At what point do we start respecting that we need trees to breathe, especially in Chicago?’ said Jeannette Hoyt, founder of the group. Hoyt said the group wanted to put tree preservation in the hands of voters to ‘give residents a voice.’
“Residents were posed this question on Tuesday’s ballot: ‘Shall the city of Chicago and the Chicago Park District stop cutting down trees in Jackson Park and preserve the trees in South Shore Cultural Center Park?’
“Results show that about 80% of respondents in each precinct answered yes.
“Construction of the Obama Center in Jackson Park involved the removal of more than 300 trees on site and in the future, more than 350 throughout the park for traffic flow, according to documents from the Chicago Department of Transportation.
“Tiger Woods’ company, TGR Design, has also proposed the restoration of the two parks’ golf courses by combining them into one 18-hole PGA-worthy course. According to documents of the design, this development could involve removal of 2,100 trees from the parks.
“Construction for the Obama Center began in 2021 and most on-site trees have been cleared. To manage traffic, CDOT has also proposed removing trees to widen certain roads around the park, including Stony Island Avenue.
“‘The thing that makes Jackson Park golf course so extraordinarily gorgeous is that the trees are interspersed throughout, as like you’re walking through an urban parkland,’ Hoyt said.
“Hoyt received documents about the TGR Design proposal in March via a Freedom of Information Act request to the Chicago Park District. One page outlining the site’s ecology states that the existing Jackson Park golf course is characterized by mature canopy trees. More than 500 heritage trees can be found on the course and the nearby park at the South Shore Cultural Center, according to the document. A heritage tree is a large tree often considered irreplaceable because of its age and ability to filter air, shade homes and provide habitat.
“A table in the document shows that on the Jackson Park golf course, around half of the heritage trees are slated for removal, and at the South Shore site, 110 out of 163 identified heritage trees would be removed. (Ellis, Chicago Tribune, 11/13/22)