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Chicago Parks Have A Race Problem, New Report Says: Black, Latino Communities Get Less Funding

Parks serving black and Latino neighborhoods are less likely to have capital improvement requests approved, according to the report.

McGuane Park in Bridgeport.
Casey Cora / DNAinfo Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — The Chicago Park District is sending more money to white, North Side and higher income neighborhoods than to parks serving minority and lower income communities, a new report contends.

The State of the Parks analysis, which was created by Friends of the Parks and released Wednesday, reports that parks on the North Side tend to have larger budgets than South Side parks — even ones of similar sizes — and more “robust” programming.

And parks that serve black and Latino neighborhoods are less likely to have capital improvement requests approved than parks that serve white communities, according to the report.

“Parkland, amenities and programs continue to be unequally distributed across the city,” according to the report. “The approval rate of capital requests suggests significant class and race inequities.”

The Chicago Park District could not immediately be reached for comment, but board members said during a Wednesday meeting that parts of the report were inaccurate.

Friends of the Parks notes in its report that this year is the 35th anniversary of when the Park District started working under a consent decree to ensure parks serving minority populations were getting equal funding and attention. The consent decree ended in 1989, and it now seems as if Chicago’s parks are “losing ground” that had been made under the decree.

The report highlighted 10 findings:

  1. Communities with Latino populations have about 197 acres of parkland, “by far the least of any racial group in the city,” according to the report. Those communities are also receiving the least capital investment.
  2. Capital requests for parks in communities where the population is largely black are only half as likely to get approved as capital requests in white communities.
  3. Communities with higher income populations are twice as likely to have capital requests approved when compared to communities with lower income populations.
  4. North Side parks have “significantly more robust” programming than parks on the South Side, according to the report.
  5. Park District issues with crime, like an “unclear” security strategy, means parks “too often … do not contribute to the health of the community,” according to the report.
  6. Park Advisory Councils, which are meant to be independent, are “increasingly” falling under the control of the Park District, according to the report.
  7. The Park District Board of Commissioners is not an elected body and its members are therefore not wholly independent but are instead “beholden to the mayor,” according to the report.
  8. Half of the money that’s meant to be used to help “needy youth” participate in the Park District goes unused, according to the report.
  9. South Side parks have smaller budgets than North Side parks even when they’re of similar sizes and classes.
  10. The city needs more parkland.

Read the full report:

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