As the Obama Presidential Center proposal continues to evolve and move through the planning and development process, a new Jackson Park watchdog group has emerged to keep pressure on the city and on the Obama Foundation. The group Jackson Park Watch last week announced that it has formally incorporated as a nonprofit organization and is fundraising to allow for continued involvement in the planning of the Obama Presidential Center and the redevelopment of the Jackson Park Golf Course.
According to an announcement from the group, Jackson Park Watch has formally entered into a “fiscal sponsorship agreement” with the high-profile lakefront protection group Friends of the Parks. According to Jackson Park Watch, funds provided by Friends of the Parks will be used to pay for legal counsel for the continued review the developments that will reshape Jackson Park.
“Retaining legal and other expert counsel will enable us to understand not only how the review processes work but how interested groups and individuals can make their voices heard so as to maximize their impact,” Jackson Park Watch co-president Brenda Nelms says in the group’s recent announcement.
The news comes after a couple of controversial items regarding the Obama Foundation were revealed, specifically the group’s request for an additional four to five acres of public land to build a parking facility and the potential use of $100 million in state funds to pay for the reshaping of Jackson Park. In addition, the Jackson Park Golf Course redesign by Tiger Woods is expected to partially displace the 4.27-acre South Shore Nature Sanctuary.
The advocacy group’s formal organization efforts appear to be a direct response to the continued criticism surrounding the Obama Foundation’s perceived lack of transparency in planning for the Obama Presidential Center. The organization just recently held its first truly public forum to discuss the plan last month—well into the planning and design phase for the upcoming civic attraction.
The news also signals an increase in influence and participation from Friends of the Parks over the planning for the project, though through use of funds and alignment with Jackson Park Watch. Friends of the Parks, a group that is well-known for stalling George Lucas’s museum plan for the Chicago lakefront, could further up its efforts to place pressure the Obama Foundation as the Obama Presidential Center continues to expand its footprint and request for public park land.