New Welles Park Playground Could Open This Week

By Hunter Clauss | Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The almost completed new Wells Park playground. Photo by Mike Fourcher.

UPDATE: Ald. Eugene Schulter’s office says the opening of the park has now been pushed back to May 8.

Lincoln Square parents will soon have a choice in which playground they want to take their kids to at the 100-year-old Welles Park. That?s because a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the long-awaited new playground near Sunnyside and Western is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 24, according to sources close to the project. The nearly $500,000 playground was first proposed back in 2005, and Lincoln Square resident Eileen Palmer said she?s glad the tanking economy didn?t derail the project.

?When we were planning this in 2005, the economy was different,? said Palmer, who is a volunteer with Friends of Welles Park, a subcommittee of the Welles Park Advisory Council that helped raise money for the new playground. ?You don?t see as many builders or contractors in the neighborhood.?

Palmer said she?s received word from the Chicago Park District that the park could open this week. Lincoln Square Ald. Eugene Schulter?s office confirmed the play lot?s opening could take place on April 24. Judith Molloy, a spokeswoman with the Chicago Park District, said contractors are currently inspecting the playground and making minor repairs. She said the park district has not set an opening date because it’s unclear when the park’s contractors will remove the fence that’s currently surrounding the playground.

“[The fence]?could come down this afternoon or whenever,” said Molloy.?”It?s that close to coming down.”

Welles Park Facts

- Before becoming alderman of the 47th Ward, Eugene Schulter worked as a janitor at Welles Park during the early 70s.

- During the late 70s and early 80s, Welles Park became the focal point of allegations of racism in the Chicago Park District. The park superintendent at the time was 47th Ward Committeeman Ed Kelly, who used the park district as a way to build his own political army. Welles Park was often pointed to by minority leaders as an example of the disparities between parks located in white wards and those located in black and hispanic neighborhoods. The Justice Department filed a suit in 1982 that accused the park district of systematically ignoring minority communities. The park district responded a year later by signing a consent decree to spend more money in minority neighborhoods.

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