...And That's My Opinion©

By Sandy Goldman

The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon

 

…And Then Came Warren Park…What Comes Next?

 

The history that follows demonstrates how well-organized goal-directed activism can achieve that which a community desires.

 

First it was the creation of Loyola Park as far back as 1909 at the urging of the Rogers Park Women’s Club!  Then, again at the further strong urging of Rogers Park citizens, the Park District began the expansion of the Park and construction of the present Field House in 1950.

 

Next came the drive to save the 13 street-end beaches, unique to Rogers Park, from housing developers!  Although it took a number of years, through the incessant insistence of Rogers Park residents, led by the Rogers Park Community Council(RPCC) - all the street-end beaches were eventually purchased by the Chicago Park District.

 

Then came the expansion of the Pottawattomie Park and creation of the Field House proposed by the Birchwood Improvement Association!

 

And then came Warren Park…

 

The next time you step to the tee on the first hole of the Robert Black Golf Course in Warren Park remember this: it wasn’t always thus.  Once it was the Edgewater Golf Club and once it might have been the site of a mega shopping center and hundreds of apartments or condos.

 

That it became none of those is due to the united community effort of a group called the Association of Northside Community Organizations (ANSCO). But let’s begin at the beginning. The year was 1965 and the members of the Edgewater Golf Club decided to disband the club and sell the property.

 

A scheme was devised between the mega-bucks members and the clout-heavy KenRoy Builders to secure, in time-honored Chicago style, the necessary zoning changes to allow the creation of a shopping center and high-rise residential buildings. Despite, or perhaps because of, disorganized, haphazard community opposition, the site was rezoned to allow construction of a shopping center and high rise buildings.

 

Shortly after the rezoning was approved, the coalition of community groups formed and started a campaign to the save the land as open space. The community groups were the Rogers Park Community Council (RPCC), the Edgewater Community Council (ECC) and the Northtown Community Council (NTCC); hence the acronym ANSCO. It was composed of some very brilliant thinkers and doers (both professional and amateur) together with some very cooperative and forward thinking state government representatives.

 

Thanks to the concentrated and persistent persuasion of ANSCO, the State of Illinois forcefully intervened in 1970 and acquired a portion of the property. They created the first State Park ever to exist within the boundaries of the City of Chicago.

 

The developer’s plans, however, continued for the construction of a scaled down version for the remaining acreage. But ANSCO opposition lead by Jim Barry (RPCC President) and Larry Warren (NCC) remained strong, unyielding and organized.

 

Finally, in 1972 the Chicago Park District was convinced and purchased the remaining acreage. In 1975 the State of Illinois transferred its property to the Chicago Park District. thus recreating the original parcel.

 

The entire park, 90 acres, was named in honor of Larry Warren who was president of ANSCO. In 1980 a nine-hole golf course was officially dedicated as the Robert Black Golf Course.  He was an engineer for the Chicago Park District for more than thirty years. Some would have preferred that golf course be named after a local activist but there was little fire left for that fight.

 

Years later, led by Alderman Bernard Stone and a new group of activists, a mega-fieldhouse was erected on the Western Avenue side of the park together with a much used year-round jogging track with stations for the fitness enthusiast; a state of the art skating park in the winter season, as well as a sled hill and a place for skateboarders.

 

So now all you golfers, joggers and park users - stop for a moment and give thanks to those intrepid activists who fought the fight and won the fight so that many years later all of us could benefit from their battles.

 

It has happened before; it can happen again because….the past IS prologue to the future, after all!!!

 

….and now, what comes next?

...And that's my opinion.

And I'm Sandy Goldman

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