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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

How Can K-Town’s Franklin Park Be Improved? Residents Can Weigh In With This Survey

A West Side group is trying to make the underused Franklin Park safer, more walkable and more welcoming. "I want it to be improved so it looks nice, like the parks look in more affluent neighborhoods."

An entrance to Franklin Park in North Lawndale.
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NORTH LAWNDALE — A neighborhood group is asking West Side residents to share input on how the largest park in the K-Town area of Lawndale could be improved.

Franklin Park, 4320 W. 15th St., is underused due to outdated equipment, a lack of programs and issues with accessibility and safety, said Rochelle Jackson, chair of the transportation committee for the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council. Input from residents will be used to decide how to make it easier for residents to take advantage of the park.

“I really do want to engage people. I want to hear their voices for what they want to bring to the park,” Jackson said. “I want it to be improved so it looks nice, like the parks look in more affluent neighborhoods. We deserve the same thing.”

Residents can share their ideas for making the park better by participating in a short survey.

Feedback will be used to implement improvement projects starting in the summer. A $12,500 grant from Safe Routes to Parks Activating Communities program will help fund the improvements, Jackson said.

“I was born and raised and grew up there. Everybody’s putting their attention on Douglass Park, but [Franklin Park] needs those same things,” Jackson said. “There’s no walkability, no bicycling, and people don’t feel safe in that park anymore like they used to.”

One goal for the project is to create way-finding signs to help people navigate to the park and easily identify amenities, like the basketball court. The signs would also improve walkability and bike-friendliness in North Lawndale by connecting Franklin Park to Douglass Park, Jackson said.

Neighbors have requested better lighting to make the park and surrounding area feel safer, Jackson said. Neighbors have also asked the transportation committee to work with the city to make the park more accessible to older people and people with a disability, Jackson said.

“If somebody is in a wheelchair, it will be kind of hard to access to the park because … there’s no pathway for wheelchairs,” Jackson said.

People who have already participated in the survey have suggested better landscaping and more trees to offer shade. Residents also have asked for better programs and events at the park, like jazz nights, back-to-school events and vendor fairs for local entrepreneurs, restaurants and artists.

People have also requested garbage cans to keep the area clean, benches, picnic areas and tables where people can play games like chess, checkers and dominos, Jacksons said.

“There’s no place for people to sit,” Jackson said. “There’s two park benches … but they’re sunken into the ground. They’re so low to the ground that if you’re taller than a first grader, you can’t sit there comfortably.”

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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