HYDE PARK — After weeks of dueling petitions and contentious meetings over how to handle noisy Burnham Park-goers, two Hyde Park residents are looking to bring neighbors together through trash cleanups and other beautification efforts.
Hyde Park Together, a new community group organized by residents Jourdan Sorrell and Rebecca Hall, has held two cleanups of Burnham Park this week.
The next cleanups are 5–7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.–noon Sunday, starting at the playground near Shore Drive between 54th and 55th streets.
Cleanup supplies will be provided with support from the Chicago Parks Foundation. A full schedule of September cleanups is available on the group’s website.
Sorrell and Hall didn’t know each other before a July 29 meeting to address noise and fireworks complaints in Burnham Park.
Two petitions addressed at that meeting — one to close the park earlier and increase police presence, and another to keep the park open and find alternatives to policing — both received about 150 signatures.
The petition to increase policing felt “out of step” with the ongoing movements to rethink public safety, Hall said, and the conversation became “fractious” and “sort of stressful.”
She hopes Hyde Park Together can unite neighbors around a solution — and there’s “no disagreement” picking up trash is a step forward.
“What I saw happening in those conversations was a lot of circular frustration, with people … feeling like nothing’s ever changing,” Hall said. With the cleanups, anyone with an interest in the park “can join us in trying something new.”
With the city and the nation already so divided, public spaces should bring people together, not further that division, Sorrell said.
“We can enjoy [the park] as residents, but also extend that out to others who want to come in the area,” he said.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), who hosted the meetings to address noise and fireworks complaints, attended Hyde Park Together’s first meeting, according to Hall. Since then, the group has operated independently.
Organizers are accepting pitches from neighbors on ways to expand the group beyond trash cleanups. That could involve tree planting, screening movies in the park — “anything to activate the space and make it feel … like a place that people care about,” Hall said.
“We would love to engage with any adjacent advisory councils or groups that share similar goals and aims,” Sorrell said. “It takes not only the elected officials but the community to make this possible.”
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