Midway Plaisance by Eric Allix Rogers

Midway Plaisance Advisory Council (MPAC) was pleased to join the National Association for Olmsted Parks’ Olmsted Network earlier this year. The alliance came at a critical time for the group, with the eastern end of Midway Plaisance under threat of development.

Midway Plaisance— born from Olmsted and Vaux’s South Park Plan (Job No. 01900) — currently connects Washington Park with Jackson Park, which lost its own development battle with the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in 2021. The OPC not only spurred additional threats to nearby areas but set a dangerous precedent that public parkland can be developed— social or environmental damages be damned! 

In defense of the Midway, MPAC aims to preserve the ecological and historic integrity of the park, fighting off unnecessary alterations.  Currently, MPAC is advocating against the inclusion of a massive new playground. The playground, which would destroy the wetland, is better suited for a location needing park and playground investments.

Although the changes appear inconsequential, these “improvements” would cause immense environmental harm. The plan eliminates the surrounding wetlands. The loss of this resource, alongside its carbon sequestration benefits, would negatively impact the community— a community that was just devastated by the destruction of hundreds of nearby trees. 

In light of President Biden’s stated concern that climate change is a clear and present danger, our local fight is aligned with the renewed efforts at the federal level to center environmental justice and offset the adverse effects of climate change.

The National Association for Olmsted Parks has publicly agreed with us, saying, “If allowed to function as a wetland, this area of the Midway could absorb seasonal excess water and provide habitat for birds and native pollinators. This was Olmsted’s vision over 100 years ago and should remain the vision today.” 

People using Midway Plaisance for a summer event.

Long before any plans for a playground, the Midway served as a retreat for the community. The park has a lengthy history of fulfilling the recreational needs of the area, and the Midway continues to serve its community in this capacity. The park provides a beautiful backdrop for children’s programming, family gatherings, student events, and sports teams year-round. This summer, the parkland served as the site for Movies on the Midway, Summer Fest, and the finale of Hyde Park Jazz Fest. As the season changes and winter approaches, the park will open up its beloved ice skating rink, which caters to novices and professionals alike.  

Bronwyn Nichols Lodato is the President of the Midway Plaisance Advisory Council (MPAC).