Oak Lawn residents who support the removal of basketball nets at Little Wolfe Park will have to wait until next month to voice their concerns to the park board.
Park commissioners delayed until their Nov. 11 meeting a decision on the controversial issue to allow more time to examine activity at the park at 107th Street and Laramie Avenue.
“We’ve been doing a lot of research into what’s come up,” Commissioner Mary Margaret Wallace said.
The investigation includes park district staffers passing by the park several times each day to track who’s using the facilities, including the basketball courts, Wallace said.
Commissioners also are keeping an eye on the park, the site of an Aug. 14 fight that led to two arrests.
“It’s hard to get a correct sampling because kids are back in school,” Wallace said.
The fight took place near a foot bridge that connects Little Wolfe Park with walking trails that stretch to the rear of Richards High School.
Stephen Hyde, 18, of Oak Lawn, and Hexadore Randall, 19, of Chicago, were arrested and charged with battery after they were picked out of a lineup by teenagers injured in the melee, police said.
There have not been additional incidents at the park since the Aug. 14 fight. Police have significantly stepped up patrols at the park since the incident, Police Chief Mike Murray said.
The issue gained momentum at the park board’s September meeting when Oak Lawn Trustee Carol Quinlan called on the park board to remove the two hoops at Little Wolfe.
Quinlan, who lives near the park, was joined at the meeting by about 30 of her neighbors, many who supported the proposal.
She told commissioners that the fight was not an isolated incident. She said the community dealt throughout the summer with inappropriate behavior. The poor conduct led other patrons, such as parents with young children, to avoid the park, she said.
Quinlan’s comments that many of the basketball players were from outside the community led some to brand her a racist, an accusation she denies.
Last week, the issue was discussed on a Chicago talk radio station after stories appeared in other Chicago media outlets. Quinlan refused the radio station’s request to appear on the show.
Quinlan said she continues to receive calls and emails about the issue, and has referred residents with questions and concerns to the park district.
Wallace said a petition to lower the hoops to eight feet to accommodate young children was not feasible due to cost.
But she said the district should consider other options to make the park more attractive. Among them are removing one hoop, which would put an end to full-court basketball games, and adding a swing set for toddlers in order to attract families with young children.
Attracting more people to the park might help lessen inappropriate activity, Wallace said.
District officials said they were unaware of problems at the park other than the Aug. 14 fight until Quinlan raised the issue.
Park Board President Sue Murphy added that the district cannot prevent people from using its facilities.
“Parks are not private property,” she said. “This is not a gated community. People can play where they want in public places.”