On May 4, 2021, the Welles Park Advisory Council shared a letter we wrote to the Welles Park Parents Association, the Chicago Park District, and Alderman Matt Martin listing concerns and priorities regarding the WPPA’s proposal to install lights at the softball and baseball diamonds.
Since the advisory council’s last meeting on July 11, we have received email correspondence from the WPPA and the park district, including a revised proposal, and responses to followup questions. For the sake of clarity, we combined the content of multiple emails and separated them by topic of concern which we share below, verbatim, with each party’s response and, where we received additional information, the corresponding date of the response.
We understand the high level of interest surrounding this issue. While the lights proposal is on the agenda for our next meeting on Monday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. in the basement of the field house, we do not anticipate further information and no vote will be taken.
WPAC original priorities from May 4, 2021 letter and direct questions to the Chicago Park District in bold italics.
What is the process by which the installation of lights will be considered? What is the PAC’s role in that process? Is CPD or the Alderman expecting to host new public meetings?
Chicago Park District response, Aug. 26, 2022: Feedback from the PAC, community, and local elected officials is a critical part of decision-making at the Park District. WPPA has shared its intention to reengage with the community and we expect that further meetings will take place before any action is taken.
WPPA response, Sept. 5, 2022: After conversations with the Alderman, the WPPA board and other volunteers are going to canvass the 3 block area again around the park to update residents on the revised plan (just 2 ball fields to be lit up) and provide answers to other questions they might have. We are going to be doing this on Sept. 10th and Sept. 17th. Along with knocking on doors, we are also going to provide an FAQ flier at every home we stop by. From that exercise, we are going to provide the feedback and questions we hear to the Alderman so he can assess how to best address concerns of the neighbors.
We ask the Park District to officially communicate that the proposed technology meets the standards for a residential park such as Welles. Concerns including # of lit diamonds, height of poles, and illumination levels should be considered.
WPPA response, July 25, 2022: In connection with the CPD, the WPPA is working on a plan to bring lights to the Senior and Major baseball and softball diamonds. That would include the placement of seven light poles in non-obtrusive areas of the park — mostly near scoreboards and bleachers – and those poles would be no taller than 60 feet. WPAC members can look at the lights at Hiawatha Park as examples of what the lights at Welles might look like.
WPPA update, Aug. 4, 2022: Regarding our 2 field proposal, they (CPD) have provided feedback that the ideal location/position for the lights is at the Junior and Senior fields. This is based on several elements from their perspective:
- They are the 2 interior diamonds to the park so least disruptive to the neighbors that have concerns.
- They run along the maintenance road into Welles that will allow for easier installation, maintenance, etc.
- The electrical can more easily be run to those two diamonds than the rest.
WPAC to park district: What are the standards that CPD will hold any installation to? Height, controls, light levels, beautification (screening, vegetation improvements, etc)?
CPD response, Aug. 26, 2022: The installation will be completed by one of our existing approved vendors. We have provided technical specs to WPPA about our desired placement of the lights among the fields and light brightness to mitigate the impact on surrounding community members.
Additional events and curfew
We understand that once installed, these lights will be available to all users of the park. We request that any proposals; including a curfew time, league arrangements, or the codified permitting process, be shared with the PAC to consider the full impacts. We ask that the CPD and Alderman would seek and consider our position before allowing additional use of the lights beyond the WPPA.
WPPA response, July 25, 2022: We defer to the CPD, but we understand that the CPD is in the process of developing a process that would allow organizations other than WPPA to use the lights. As we have said from the beginning, the WPPA will enforce a strict, 9:30p curfew when we use the fields and ultimately CPD is in charge of when the lights are on or off.
WPAC to park district: WPPA has provided a curfew of 9:30 and the dates they would use the lights but what would CPD’s process be for other groups (adult softball leagues, football, special events) requesting to use the lights and would the PAC have any role?
CPD response, Aug. 26, 2022: The Park District can establish a rule applying to all uses of the lights at the park if a 9:30 curfew is what the PAC and community members are requesting.
Equity – 2 requests
- We ask that WPPA commit to equitable use of the fields, specifically that the night availability be allocated to baseball and softball players equally and each team (age-appropriate) is able to play a night-time game at Welles Park each season. If teams want to play under the lights, they should be given an equitable opportunity.
- We ask WPPA to use their considerable resources to increase needs-based scholarships for players, and support an under-resourced baseball and/or softball league in Chicago.
WPPA response, July 25, 2022: We fully support the WPAC’s requests for equity. The Major and Senior diamonds would be available to softball and baseball teams. As the WPAC letter suggest, “if teams want to play under the lights, they should be given an equitable opportunity” to do so, and they will. The WPPA only turns players away if we reach our registration capacity – again, because of field limits. We do not turn away players who cannot pay our registration fees. Although we already have one of the lowest league fees on the Northside, annually we provide scholarships to players who cannot afford our league fees, and we are committed to continuing to do so.
WPAC to park district: WPPA responded to our concern about equity but they are limited to the fields and children they serve. How is CPD ensuring equitable access to a resource like this at Welles, and more importantly at other parks in other less-resourced parts of Chicago?
CPD response, Aug. 26, 2022: We have lights at fields throughout the City, including the south side and north side. We are happy to sit down and go over some investments we are doing throughout the City, particularly in traditionally underinvested communities, if you would like. However, in general, anyone can apply for use of our fields, and we can only evaluate an application for use of the field based on the requirements of our application (i.e. timely submission, etc.). I recommend that you work directly with WPPA for more information about their interest in advancing equity and their efforts on that front.
We request that WPPA appoint a representative to serve on the PAC and show continued support to the PAC (including but not limited to gazebo concerts, NaturePlace, and workdays) and our community engagement process.
WPPA response, July 25, 2022: As requested, one of our baseball commissioners has become a PAC member in good standing, and regularly attends the WPAC meetings. We welcome the increased coordination between WPAC and the WPPA.
Feedback from community engagement
Litter and field upkeep
WPPA will increase their efforts to address litter of players and their families. CPD will commit to increased recycling and landfill receptacles and waste pick-ups after the most heavily used days, especially Saturday and Monday mornings (May-October). When allowable under procurement, CPD should add Sunday waste collection service to Welles Park.
WPPA response, July 25, 2022: We defer to the CPD on the addition of trash and recycling receptacles as the WPPA does not control that portion of the WPAC’s ask. However, we can commit to the WPAC that we will continue to remind our volunteers, parents, and players to leave the park cleaner than the way they found it.
WPAC to park district: In our original set of questions we made the point that litter is an issue due to the heavy use of Welles. Is CPD doing anything to improve litter service, increase bins, and # of pickups over the weekends or early Monday?
CPD response, Aug. 26, 2022: We can work with our vendor to request additional bins, and I will inquire about possible adjustments to pickup dates.
Parking and traffic safety
We ask the WPPA to do more to promote alternatives to car trips to Welles, the Alderman explore parking and traffic pressures surrounding Welles, and the CPD, Alderman, or WPPA should install additional bike racks near each field.
WPPA response, July 25, 2022: At several points throughout the year, we have communicated to our community that they should bike, walk or take alternative transport to Welles. We would also be happy to work with the CPD to install additional bike racks at Welles.
- WPPA is proposing lights for two fields. Following CPD feedback, fields are the Junior and Senior fields along the service drive south of the gymnasium.
- If allowed to proceed, WPPA would be providing the full funding to CPD using CPD vendors.
- Per the Alderman’s direction, community outreach is taking place in September.
- A curfew of 9:30 p.m. will be in place for WPPA games and any other potential users of the lights.
If there is a need for any clarification, please contact the Welles Park Advisory Council at wellesparkAC@gmail.com.