Saving City Parks an Olympic Challenge

Critics concerned that 2016 Games will take city from citizens

Despite the hype and all the extensive plans that are already in the works for the Olympics in Chicago in 2016, it's clear that not everyone in town is in favor of the idea.

With the city's parks and lakefront at the center of the plan, the Olympics and preparations for them -- which would be required years in advance of the Games -- are sure to displace many Chicagoans from what they've come to know as their playgrounds.

"Let's face it," the Chicago Tribune quotes bid chairman Patrick Ryan as saying, "the lakefront and the parks are very attractive facilities for the general public and the Games are for the general public."

Construction would begin on major venues as early as 2013, the paper reports, starting with work in Washington Park, Monroe Harbor and Northerly Island.

The next year would bring projects in Douglas and Jackson Parks, and in 2015 crews would begin work at the Waveland tennis courts in Lincoln Park.

The bike path would be rerouted and beaches might become less accessible as construction is underway.

All of which causes concern for those who regularly depend on public access to the city parks.

"What happens to lacrosse, soccer, Little League, cricket?" asked Erma Tranter, president of Friends of the Parks, an advocacy group. "We have not gotten any information from 2016 on where they will put these activities, and given that there are not a lot of vacancies in the parks, this is a major concern."

The Trib article features a South Side Little League coach Billy Bean, who, while he's pro-Olympics, worries that disruptions in the summer programs in Washington Park would lead to higher crime in the area.

Bean, who began coaching Little League in 1972, said, "I hope the Olympics come here, but not to Washington Park because it's the only place we can go to keep kids out of trouble."

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