LINCOLN SQUARE — Park District officials have informed a construction crew in River Park they cannot drive onto park grounds after neighbors raised concerns about how many cars and trucks are parking on the grass while workers build a new playground.
Since at least the last week of June, neighbors have seen cars and trucks using one of the service roads at River Park, 5100 N. Francisco Ave., to drive onto the park’s grass and park under the shade of trees next to the construction area.
Neighbors told Block Club they’ve repeatedly seen cars driving along walking paths, sometimes honking at pedestrians and bicyclists to get out of the way.
“It’s dangerous because there are so many kids around here,” said neighbor Maria Otero in Spanish. “It’s the same with dogs who are running around and playing with their owner. A driver can kill someone.”
Park district officials said in a statement they have told the vehicle owners to park on “designated hard surfaces” in response to Block Club questions about the neighbors’ concerns. Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) also said he would look into blocking off nearby street parking for the workers.
River Park is located along the North Branch of the Chicago River and straddles Albany Park and Lincoln Square. It’s popular with bicyclists, joggers and small children coming and going from the pool on hot summer days, neighbors said.
The service road the playground construction crew is using to access the interior of the park is just south of the intersection of Francisco and Carmen avenues.
A handwritten whiteboard sign posted at the entrance of the service road Tuesday said, “Sorry. No public parking. The cars in back are staff. We need to park to get to work! Thank you.”
The sign had been up since at least July 18, neighbors said.
There is free parking along the Francisco Avenue border of the park, with only the northern half of the spots being limited to three hours. There is also free parking along the park’s West Argyle Street border to the south.
“I really don’t understand why they’re parking inside the park like that because there is so much street parking further along on the street,” Otero said. “These construction guys are getting here early when there are so many more free parking spaces around the park.”
Nine vehicles — a mix of sedans, crossovers and pickup trucks — and a large trailer were parked Tuesday on the grass near the playground where construction crews were working.
“Before those crews started working on the park, even before the pool opened up, there was always at least one car parked there by the trees. Again, I assumed it was like some sort of staff parking situation,” said Laura Freeman, another neighbor. “But this is the most cars I’ve ever seen over here. And we’re here at least twice a day.”
A construction worker told Block Club his supervisor told him to park on the grass and didn’t answer further questions.
Park supervisor Vera Onate said the vehicles would be parked on the grass during the duration of construction of the playground and referred further questions to the Park District.
“Park District and construction crew management have alerted employees to avoid parking on grassy areas and only use designated hard surfaces. They are also working to identify available street parking,” said Park District spokeswoman Michele Lemons.
Park officials said the handwritten whiteboard sign posted at the entrance of the service road was removed as well.
Vasquez said his office is working to secure street parking spaces for workers on the street.
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