McKinley Park and its field house is at 2110 W. Pershing Road, Chicago.

Volunteers Step Up to Save Park Advisory Council

Published April 27, 2023

Battered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of a key leader and volunteer, the McKinley Park Advisory Council will continue its service to neighborhood parks thanks to the work of four local women who have agreed to serve on the board.

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Veronica O'Malley, Kate Moser, Joanna Quealy and Stefanie Sysounthone have agreed to serve as officers and board members on the advisory council, which has a storied history of bringing activities and resources to McKinley Park, Hoyne Park and other neighborhood parks managed by the Chicago Park District. They signed up to serve at the council meeting on Monday, April 24, 2023, at the McKinley Park field house.

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Reconstitution of advisory council leadership follows a slow-down in park activities during the pandemic, previous board members moving on to other commitments, and the untimely passing away of board member Katie Flores, who supported many local parks initiatives with untold hours of labor and leadership.

Until the meeting on April 24, it was unclear whether a minimum of four local volunteers would agree to serve on the board. This would mean the advisory council would be disbanded, and our neighborhood parks would have no one to advocate for them and their programs, events and amenities.

No Pool Status Yet

O'Malley has previously served on the advisory council as president for multiple terms. Moser, Quealy and Sysounthone are longtime local residents with a history of engagement with McKinley Park neighborhood organizations and enterprises.

McKinley Park Supervisor Briana Soria attended the council meeting and said that it was still unknown whether McKinley Park's outdoor swimming pool and kids splash pad would be open for the season, or if hours were being cut back.

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The Chicago Park District has recently struggled with staffing issues, especially at its pools and aquatics programs, which have not had enough lifeguards and pool attendants to meet demand. The district's Be a Lifeguard web page offers information about these summer jobs and how to sign up.

Park and Natural Area Rules

With warm weather and the summer season coming up, Soria shared a reminder of Chicago Park District rules and regulations, in particular those for McKinley Park and its natural area. These include:

  • Grilling is only permitted in the picnic grove area of McKinley Park, which are the meadows with picnic tables on the south edge of the park along Pershing Road.
  • Coals from grilling should be disposed of in the marked, red, metal cans set out for this purpose. Do not dispose of coals on tree roots or at the base of a tree, as this damages the tree.
  • All fish in the lagoon are property of the Chicago Park District, so fishing is catch and release. Also, all tackle should be properly disposed of in the marked containers: Improperly disposed-of fishing line and tackle can injure and kill our park's birds and wildlife.
  • All pets must be leashed, and no pets are allowed in McKinley Park's natural area on the east end of the park and surrounding the lagoon. The McKinley Dog Park with amenities for large and small dogs is located next to the swimming pool and field house.
  • The natural area also has special rules: Stay on the trails and out of the fenced-off areas. Do not collect or damage any flora and fauna, and do not feed the wildlife. Motorized vehicles, as well as bicycles, skates and skateboards are also not allowed in the park district's natural areas.

Soria said that any park-goers should call 911 to report any problems at the park, and not call the field house. Chicago Park District Security can be called at (312) 747-2193.

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Midnight Circus to Return

Other business from the council meeting included updates on the McKinley Park Community Garden, which has completely filled up and now has a waiting list, said garden President Nicholas Efrosinis.

Soria and O'Malley also noted confirmation of the Midnight Circus season for this year, and that it would again return to McKinley Park this summer or fall.

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