New Park Land for Chicago’s Chinatown

Chicago, IL, 6/3/02 — The Chicago Park District and the Trust for Public Land (TPL), announced today the acquisition of a five-acre addition to the existing Ping Tom Memorial Park located at the north end of Chicago’s Chinatown at 19th Street and the Chicago River. The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) donated the new property, north of 18th Street, after extensive environmental testing and commitments for clean up of the former railroad maintenance yard.

“Across the country, cities are beginning to see brownfields as opportunities,” adds Chris Slattery, Chicago Office Director of the Trust for Public Land. “In Chicago, there is a commitment from all parties to add more parkland to our underserved neighborhoods. Chinatown is a perfect example of what can be accomplished.”

“Ping Tom Memorial Park is one of Chicago’s most beautiful new neighborhood parks. We need to expand to meet the needs of this growing neighborhood and to continue our work in making the Chicago River an amenity equal to the lakefront,” said Chicago Park District General Superintendent David Doig. “Chicago’s partnership with the Trust for Public Land and the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway is an excellent example of the value public-private partnerships can bring to our city’s park system.”

Photo by: Jill Metcoff
At the request of the Chicago Park District, the Trust for Public Land helped the City acquire the additional five acres of railroad land owned by BNSF. Leading negotiations to secure the land, TPL has been able to resolve issues regarding the land’s transformation from a “brownfield” – an industrial site containing limited pollution – to a viable community park as well as secure grant funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the initial environmental assessment work.

The triangular-shaped parcel of property is bounded by 18th Street on the south, Wentworth Avenue on the east and by the St. Charles Airline Railroad, in which BNSF has an interest.

“BNSF is pleased that a parcel of land once used to service some of the nation’s most famous passenger trains will once again be used to serve the public,” says Jim O’Neil, Assistant Vice President of BNSF’s Property and Facilities Management department. “Donating the property to the Chicago Park District, with the assistance of the Trust for Public Land, ensures it will remain accessible to future generations.”

Once the remediation work is completed later this year, planning for the future use of the site will begin. Concept plans for the new land include the addition of ball fields, soccer fields, a field house and a swimming pool – amenities that would not fit safely in the existing narrow river-edge park. The former rail site together with another 6-acre parcel of land already owned by the Chicago Park District along the Chicago River will provide the necessary space for these improvements.

“The addition of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe property to Ping Tom Park in Chinatown is the culmination of many people’s efforts,” adds Gene Lee, a long-time neighborhood resident and Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Daley. “Working together, BNSF, the Chicago Park District and the Trust for Public Land have taken a major step toward creating an excellent amenity for the community. Celebrating this new addition to Ping Tom Memorial Park is a fitting way to conclude Asian Heritage Month.”

The Trust for Public Land, or TPL, is a national land conservation organization that is actively helping urban communities recycle former industrial sites commonly referred to brownfields into viable parkland. In 1999 TPL opened an office in Chicago to focus on the open space needs in and around the City.