Good afternoon. I’m Jack Spicer, and I’m Debra Hammond.
Promontory Point Conservancy welcomes you to today’s press conference. We have good news to share about the future of the historic limestone revetment and our beloved Promontory Point Park, and we are declaring today the first annual Promontory Point Day.
Alfred Caldwell was the landscape architect who designed the Prairie Style landscape and oversaw the construction of the man-made peninsula we call the Point. Today is Caldwell’s 119th birthday. It also is the 85th anniversary of the May 1937 opening of the Point to the public. Today is Promontory Point Day, and we will be celebrating on Saturday, May 28th, out at the Point with all-day events for children, families, swimmers, pets and adults.
Democracy can be quite messy and sometimes it really works. For 22 years, the community has been fighting to protect and preserve the historic limestone revetment and its enjoyment of Promontory Point. Our local elected representatives listened and have answered our call. Alderman Leslie Hairston has been with us every step of the way from the very beginning: thank you, Leslie, for your strong, effective, enduring support. And deep gratitude to Rick Bryant, first Congressman Jackson’s and then Congresswoman Kelly’s senior legislative aid, for sticking with us for two decades and getting us to this Point.
Ever since her election in 2013, U.S. Congresswoman Robin Kelly has advocated publicly for a preservation approach at the Point. Annually, she has submitted language for a preservation study at Promontory Point but was unable to secure funding. This past week, she worked a miracle. She has successfully secured congressional language in the federal budget authorizing funding of the much delayed and much needed, independent, third-party engineering study of the historic limestone revetment at Promontory Point. The City, the Chicago Park District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers support Kelly’s request. Fingers crossed the federal budget is approved. This is miraculous good news!
In 2002 and 2004, the community funded its own independent, third-party marine engineering studies that show that preservation of the limestone revetment is:
Our walks of the Point with marine engineers last fall confirmed that despite continued erosion, repairing, restoring and rehabilitating the limestone is still feasible and cost-effective. But even if it weren’t, Promontory Point is still worth the full cost of repair and restoration. And, as with every preservation project, there is rich opportunity for creative, avant guard adaptation for ADA compliance and access to the water for all while maximizing the limestone. This is simply a win-win for the City, the Chicago Park District and the community.
From 2004-2007, then-Senator Barack Obama and then-Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. made the same budget requests without success. We’ve been waiting sixteen years for this moment. Assuming this funding authorization is passed, the study will be awarded to an independent and objective contractor with reputable preservation experience. We can all pick up where we left off in 2006 and resume the work toward the much needed repair, restoration and rehabilitation of the historic limestone revetment at Promontory Point per Secretary of the Interior Standards for Preservation. This moment also opens a favorable opportunity for the community to engage and partner with the City and the Chicago Park District.
Chicago is a gem on the Great Lakes for the dedication of its lakefront to the “People’s Park”. This moment opens the potential for the City, the Chicago Park District and the community to make something harmoniously, beautifully world class at Promontory Point.
We’ve had exceptional support and excellent representation from all our local elected officials. We are well represented by Senator Robert Peters, Representative Curtis Tarver, Commissioner Bill Lowry as well as our good neighbor Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor.
The most important supporter has been the community whom you will also hear from today. The Point is an indescribably unique place. It welcomes all kinds of people from all over the City. It’s beautiful and remains safe. Everyone has a favorite Point story. The community has worked hard and long to save the historic limestone revetment from demolition and preserve the integrity of their beloved Point.
I want to acknowledge the members of the Conservancy, who have worked hard and smart the last 15 months to bring us to this moment and some of whom have been working to save the Point for 22 years: Sam Clendenning, Helena Duncan, Becca Hall, Clinee Hedspeth, Bruce Johnstone, Don Lamb, Bronwyn Nichols Lodato, Brigid Maniates, Brenda Nelms, George Rumsey, Jorge Sanchez, David Schalliol, Michael Scott, Connie Spreen among others. Thank you to Connie and the Experimental Station for hosting us today. We’ve also been supported by preservation advocates the Hyde Park Historical Society, Preservation Chicago, Landmarks Illinois, the National Trust and attorney Michael Rachlis.
Now let’s hear from our speakers with important words about Promontory Point, a preservation approach and park equity.
Chief of Staff Alexandra Desrosiers and Outreach Coordinator Maya Rodriguez read a statement from State Senator Robert Peters, 13th District
State Representative Curtis Tarver II, 25th District
Cook County Commissioner Bill Lowry, 13th District
Alderman Leslie Hairston, 5th Ward
Mila Marshall, clean water advocate and activist
Statement from Charles Shabica, marine engineer and contributor to 2004 Kalven Mediation Report (See next blog post to read Charlie's statement.)
Bronwyn Nichols Lodato, park equity advocate
Ward Miller, executive director, Preservation Chicago
Jessica Stockholder, artist and professor, Director of Graduate Studies, Visual Arts, University of Chicago
Jamie Kalven, journalist, Invisible Institute and author of 2004 Kalven Mediation Report
Ruth Knack, journalist, board Hyde Park Historical Society and long time Point lover
Jennefer Rossi, Swimmers for the Point
Flora and Kestrel Green, Kids for the Point, last but not least
Debra Hammond is currently an officer of Promontory Point Conservancy. She has always been tall for her age