An Oak Lawn trustee appeared before the park district board on Monday and asked that basketball hoops be removed from all village parks.
The request stemmed from an incident last month where black and white youths clashed at Wolfe Wildlife Refuge at 105th Street and Laramie Avenue, resulting in several teens being injured and two arrests.
Tr. Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) explained that neighborhood
families and young children no longer use Wolfe Wildlife or Little Wolfe Park,
because it has been taken over by young adults and older teens from outside of
Oak Lawn coming to play basketball.
“Unfortunately over the last years we’ve seen a big change in what’s happening at Wolfe,” Quinlan said, who lives a few houses away from Little Wolfe at 107th Street and Laramie Avenue. “It’s young adults and older teens that are there and they’re not from the area. I can tell because all the cars from people driving in have Chicago city stickers.”
Backed by 35 of her constituents, Quinlan voiced their concerns about foul language emanating from the basketball courts in Little Wolfe, noise after dark and litter around the park.
Quinlan said that neighborhood residents are now too intimidated to walk their dogs on the nature paths, let alone allowing their young children to play at Little Wolfe playground unsupervised.
“I’m getting daily complaints from residents around Wolfe, especially after the incident last month,” the village trustee said. “People aren’t feeling safe. I believe that by taking down the hoops … it would remove some of that outside element.”
Oak Lawn Police Chief Michael Murray told the park board that police patrols have been increased at Wolfe Wildlife and Little Wolfe Park since the Aug. 14 skirmish between black and white male juveniles.
Two older black teens were charged as adults on misdemeanor assault and battery charges. The black youths claim the skirmish started when white youths used racial slurs.
Oak Lawn Parks Commissioner Gary Callahan reminded the village trustee that the August incident did not start on the basketball court.
“[Parks commissioners] all go through the neighborhood to see what’s going at these parks,” Callahan said. “It breaks my heart that some of these people who aren’t residents come here because they feel safe.”
Quinlan said the problems with foul language and the most recent spate of violence weren’t limited to Little Wolfe, but other parks village-wide.
“I say remove the hoops in all of Oak Lawn,” the village trustee said to audience applause. “It’s not easy for me as a village trustee either to remove something from a park, but we are paying taxes and it’s our money going toward the park district. I quite frankly don’t care about people outside of Oak Lawn.”
Quinlan proposed replacing the basketball court at Little
Wolfe with an outdoor sand volleyball court. She also suggested taking down the hoops
and nets but leaving the poles and backboards up to see if it improves if
park safety on a trial basis.
Oak Lawn parks commissioners said they would discuss removing the basketball court at Little Wolfe, but would not vote on it that evening because they did not have a full board.
Parks Commissioner Donna McAuley said that Oak Lawn parks are renovated based on residents’ input.
“Safety is a concern for all of us,” McAuley said. “My hope is that if the board chooses to take the basketball courts down, that we don’t take away recreation that our residents want now and in the future.”
After the meeting, Quinlan said she didn’t get a good vibe from the park board. She suggested that neighbors start documenting suspicious activity.
“Maybe they just need to talk about it,” Quinlan said of the park board. “I don’t care that Chicago people have a safe place to come and play hoops. It should be our residents and our young kids up there playing hoops.”
The Oak Lawn Park District board meets at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of the month at the Oak View Center, 4625 W. 110th St. Meetings are open to the public.