Friends of the Parks (FOTP) is a 501(c)(3) designated park advocacy organization, dedicated to preserving, protecting, and improving Chicago’s parks and forest preserves for all citizens. Since 1975, FOTP has increase private and public commitment to Chicago’s parks through establishing park advisory councils, developing new parks, renovating playlots, and presenting public workshops and lectures to create and informed citizenry. Our mission is to preserve, protect, improve and promote the use of Chicago parks, forest preserves and recreational areas for the benefit of all neighborhoods and citizens.
FOTP was formed in 1975 as a response to a Chicago Park District administration which ran our park system as a political patronage army and not for the benefit of citizens and taxpayers. Tax dollars were squandered; parks were in shambles; and there was no stewardship by the primary government agency entrusted with their protection. Evidence of the problems included poor landscape maintenance and horticultural practices; poorly attended recreational programs; parks isolated from the communities they served, inequitable distribution of tax dollars; and patronage that at times paralyzed the functioning of local parks. Friends of the Parks undertook studies of existing conditions of parks and recreation programs. Based on site surveys, report cards were produced which year after year showed failing grades by the political operatives that ran the Park District.
FOTP completes policy studies on public trust issues including legal analyses, as well as reports on park management and stewardship. We work with community groups and individuals to build a strong park constituency to participate meaningfully in neighborhood park decision-making process. We develop new pilot park programs, such as the successful after-school program for children, which the Park District later adopted in parks throughout the city. We organize and sponsor regular workshops, member forums, park tours and symposia to educate and publicize environmental and park issues.
FOTP provides educational and technical assistance to park advisory councils and assist in their efforts improve their neighborhood park operation and programming. FOTP serves park advisory councils by attending meetings in various neighborhoods. We work to form new park advisory councils by coordinating meetings with the Chicago Park District and other interested parties. We attend special issue meetings as an invited guest and provide written information and educational materials to help councils solve neighborhood problems. FOTP serves as the fiscal agent for park advisory councils who do not have a 501C3 designation. Using FOTP’s tax identification number, contributions for park improvements are tax deductible.
Our Volunteers in Parks Program (VIP) organizes 5,000 volunteers annually as stewards to complete park cleanups, beautification and greening projects. We offer an Adopt-A-Park program. Each year, the VIP program organizes and sponsors the Midwest’s largest Earth Day Parks Clean-Up event and co-hosts the Public Lands Day in the fall. We organize and coordinate community service projects in parks for universities and corporations who encourage hands-on environmental participation. With a goal of creating more park awareness and citizen participation, Friends of the Parks sponsors lectures at the Chicago Cultural Center featuring keynote speakers who discuss issues relevant to our park system. We also offer a series of park tours each year to highlight Chicago’s historic park system. In addition, Friends of the Parks attends neighborhood festivals, to enable us to learn first-hand specific issues communities have regarding their local parks.
Contact Information: (312) 857-2757 or firstname.lastname@example.org