Welles Park Horseshoe Pits

At the March 2023 meeting of the Welles Park Advisory Council, a vote was taken to communicate the PAC’s interest in proposed improvements regarding the south part of Welles Park, specifically the existing horseshoe pits. The letter below was drafted and sent to Ald. Martin and Chicago Park District on March 31, 2023. For more information on the history of these pits, please review this summary developed by members of the Welles Park horseshoe players.

Dear Alderman Martin and General Superintendent and CEO Escareño,

On behalf of the Welles Park Park Advisory Council, I am writing to request a reconsideration of the plan to renovate the horseshoe pits at Welles Park to add pickleball courts. Following the successful participatory budget menu funding vote of 2022, our understanding is that a plan is underway to remove half of the current playing area to be replaced by pickleball courts.

It has come to our attention that there is a vibrant community using these pits and they have a long, and unique history at Welles and in Chicago’s history. Indeed, these may be the oldest, above-ground infrastructure at Welles Park, dating back to, at-least, 1938.

We, the members of the PAC, feel somewhat at fault for the current plan as we asked the Park District to explore the opportunity for adding pickleball courts to Welles in a 2019 letter. We were approached by members of the community to explore the possibility of adding courts and in turn, asked CPD to provide a price estimate for these improvements. Once the estimate was received ($107,000; $64,000 for Pickleball and $43,000 for renovating horseshoe pits and adding “bags”), we revisited the topic with the interested members of the community to see if they would be willing to lead a fundraising campaign. They were not and we let the matter fade away. You can find the details of this process and specific dates in our PAC minutes, accessible on our website; We were encouraged, and surprised, when this was an item on the Alderman’s 2022 Participatory Budgeting Menu Options for $110,000. While it was successfully chosen, it brought forward a group of active horseshoe players voicing concern and engaging the PAC, Welles Staff, and the Alderman’s Office to see what could be done.

Having heard from this group, and considering the other elements of Welles Park we would like to request a repurposing of the Participatory Budgeting funds in the following ways, and prioritized in order:

1. Do not remove any horseshoe pits but rehab the wood backstops, existing storage containers and fence, repaint all fence and wooden elements, and make the water and electric functional including a “spring-timed” lightswitch on the two poles that serve the area with 60 minute intervals as these are currently illuminated until 11 pm year-round. Work with the horseshoe group to identify appropriate materials and improvements.

2. Repaint the tennis courts with proper pickleball lines, two for each tennis court.Unfortunately when this was done in 2020, it was done improperly for Pickleball using the existing tennis net instead of having two PB courts for each tennis court as was done at nearby Horner Park. This would increase the # of potential PB courts to 6.

3. Utilize the existing concrete pad immediately north of the tennis courts. Add striping for 2 or 3 pickleball courts to the concrete pad increasing the number ofPB courts at Welles to up to 8 or 9. Consider adding fencing but leaving open to the east and west for special events and occasional overflow parking or trades.

4. Consider painting lines back on the Shuffleboard pad immediately north of the new pickleball pad. This was a shuffleboard pad originally and would indeed add another historic element back to the park.

5. Rehab the volleyball court with new sand and any other needed improvements tothis popular but unmaintained amenity.

6. Add a set of wooden or metal poles with brackets immediately north of the horseshoe pits for hanging hammocks, taking care not to damage existing trees or roots as shade is helpful for such an amenity. Here are examples from two different locations: or this: During Covid, we saw an increase in the number of park users bringing hammocks but unfortunately this can lead to damage to existing or undersized trees and there are only a few locations with proper spacing to accommodate this use. Having a new dedicated space for this use would be a nice addition.

On behalf of Welles Park Advisory Council thank you for considering this set of improvements. By not taking on the significant cost of new cement work in the existing horseshoe pit area ($64,000) we hope these funds can go further to add many of the amenities listed above.

Sincerely, Aaron Durnbaugh, President, Welles Park Advisory Council

The Welles Park Advisory Council is a group of volunteers that supports the users of Welles Park and the Lincoln Square and North Center communities by fundraising, advising, and park advocacy.