Photo by Bob Rakow. Oak Lawn resident Paul Egan asks the Oak Lawn Park Board why upgrades to Little Wolfe Park did not include removal of the basketball courts. Several residents attended the meeting to call for the hoops to come down following an August fight that led to two arrests.
The basketball hoops at Oak Lawn’s Little Wolfe Park will stay up for now despite protests Monday night from a small group of residents who live near the park.
Park District commissioners decided to consider the matter further at a future committee meeting rather than vote on a proposal to remove the hoops from the park.
“We do understand your frustrations, but things take time, park board President Sue Murphy said at Monday’s meeting.
The six residents who spoke at the meeting, including village Trustee Carol Quinlan, strongly urged park commissioners to remove the hoops. Residents have called for the removal of the hoops following an Aug. 14 fight involving two groups of teens, which led to two arrests.
Quinlan attended the park board’s September meeting and said the fight was not an isolated incident. Instead, she said, the court was used throughout the summer by troublemakers from outside the village. 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, she said.
Park Commissioner Gary Callahan said removing the basketball hoops is not a panacea to the problems in the neighborhood.
“A lot of this sounds, unfortunately, like it’s a police matter,” Callahan said. “If we have a problem in a park, we’re going to take care of it. This has nothing to do with basketball. If we take these hoops down, it may temporarily relieve something, but it may push the problem to another park.”
The Oak Lawn police department is responsible for patrolling village parks and stepped up efforts at Little Wolfe after the August fight.
Commissioner Mary Margaret Wallace said the park is under utilized and does not attract enough children.
“I honestly do feel like the best course of action is to add more equipment,” Wallace said. “I also am in favor of removing one of the [hoops] to decrease competitive play. I think that’s what the issue is.”
Wallace’s remarks drew applause from the approximately 20 people who attended the meeting. Commissioner Donna McCauley said she also supports removing one of the nets.
Resident Paul Egan asked the board why improvements made at the park, 107th Street and Laramie Avenue, stopped short of removing the basketball hoops.
He suggested converting the court into a ball hockey court, sand volleyball pit or a small field for youth soccer.
“You started to modernize the park and stopped short at the basketball court,” Egan said.
“The language is not suitable for any age,” added Mike Horan, who also lives near the park and believes the baskets should be removed.
Pamela Mankowski said the presence of the basketball court is bad for the neighborhood.
“It’s going to change Oak Lawn if something is not done,” Mankowski said. “I live in fear and that is not Oak Lawn. I should not have to be afraid to my home after dark.”
Quinlan said board members are not fully aware of the problems caused by the court.
“You guys on the board, you are not in my area,” said Quinlan, who lives a few houses away from the park.