Meeting rescheduling and facts: Wicker Park Advisory Council solutions about illegal activities


Predictions of a snow storm blanketing Chicago on Tuesday caused the rescheduling of the Mar. 5 Wicker Park Advisory Council (WPAC) monthly meeting in the Park Field House, 1425 N. Damen Ave. The new date is Tues., Mar. 12, at 7 p.m. All participants have been rescheduled, according to Doug Wood, the Council's Secretary.

On the agenda for the WPAC's February monthly meeting, to which the community was invited, there was an agenda item continued from the previous month. The item was to address working "to coordinate all groups (Alderman, Community Groups, 14th Police District, Park District Security and Local Staff) in working together to curb vandalism, drinking and drug sales." 

As part of that item, there was to be a discussion about cameras and the techniques of how to successfully work with the Park District to enact the Code of Conduct. The focus was to better manage and eliminate problems caused by disruptive individuals, such as the Crusty Punks (a.k.a. Rail Riders and Weekend Vandals), and develop a Community Watch Force with the Park District and 14th District Police.

With only one community group, the Bucktown Community Organization (BCO), participating in that meeting, the group focused on what they deemed the number one problem and determined a solution. The problem was the illegal behavior of drug sales and drinkers who dominate the Schiller and Damen entrance area of the Park.

After 10 years of escalating problems with no solutions to the problems being successful, the WPAC voted, to have four chess tables removed from that Park area. The illegal behavior is contrary to the Park District's Code of Conduct.

The Council determined to address the other Code of Conduct issues about other disruptive activity as well as allowing dogs running off leash, graffiti and vandalism at a later meeting. 

Since that decision, several people, in and out of the press, chose to accuse the WPAC of a laundry list of prejudices and ulterior motives. The fact that they have prejudices is true BUT their prejudices are against illegal behavior, NOT someone's ethnicity or economic status. 

The facts are that the WPAC:

  • raised over $1.5 million in Park improvement and volunteer hours since 2002
  • initiated capital improvements including: the playground, the fountain court benches and urns, dog-park, children's mosaic mural and gardens
  • provides yearly free activities for thousands of people
  • encourages and works with Park partners to enhance the Park and its offerings
  • works with homeless people in the Park, regardless of ethnicity, to maintain the Park grounds
  • pay, out of their own money, those who work to maintain the Park
  • work with the Wicker Park Garden Club to maintain and enhance the Park Gardens and environment

Furthermore, WPAC, in the last three years, has increased partnerships with the Chicago Park District and 60 city-wide organizations to accomplish their goals to enhance programming, events, fund raise for improvements, and present the concerns of the public to the Chicago Park District and elected officials. 

One of the smaller parks in the City, the 4.3 acre Park has so much traffic and activity that every square foot is utilized by many different individuals and groups daily. Despite Park Supervisor Dan Puente's and the good working staff's efforts, the Park District and the City have reduced resources for Park operations, maintenance and security. In addition the reduced resources of the Chicago Police Department also impact the Park's security.

Wicker Park would not be the pleasant respite that it is without the efforts of the WPAC and the Wicker Park Garden Club who work with all people who want to participate. 

Solutions for enforcement of the Chicago Park District's Code of Conduct will be addressed between 7 and 8 p.m.  That session will begin with 30-minutes of presentations from 1st Ward Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno; Patrick Levar, Chicago Park District COO; Art Richardson, Chicago Park District Central Region Manager; other Park District staff; and the WPAC. 

Audience solution presentations will be allotted an additional 30-minute time slot. Each person presenting a solution will have two minutes. Those wishing to present are required to sign up to be on the agenda by sending an email indicating that they wish to present. 

Photo courtesy of Doug Wood



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