Last Monday, 12 volunteers cleared out an extensive and apparently abandoned homeless encampment and dumping ground hidden away on the Midway Plaisance. The camp was in a group of trees flush against the Canadian National Railway Line, towards the east of the Midway.
“I was blown away,” said Louise McCurry, who helped clean the area. “I had no idea that there was so much trash up there.”
The volunteers found five shelters at the top of the hill. According to McCurry, the shelters did not seem to have been recently occupied and were in different stages of disrepair: some had apparently caught on fire and others had half-collapsed. Still, some of the structures had been screwed into trees or were too large for the people in the group to move. Canadian National, who is responsible for a small slice of land near its tracks, was scheduled to send people to dismantle what remained of the encampment sometime in the last week.
The group found dead animals in the structures. McCurry said that people in the surrounding neighborhood had complained about rats coming out of the park and that a concern about vermin was one reason for cleaning the site.
The dismantling of the encampment was the first workday for the revived Midway Park Advisory Council (PAC). PACs are groups of volunteers who take some responsibility for maintenance and improvements at their affiliated parks. McCurry, the current president of the Jackson Park Advisory Council who has been working with the new PAC, compared the process of cleaning the Midway to the Jackson PAC’s early work in Jackson Park. According to McCurry, Jackson PAC spent the first two years of its existence clearing out spots where trash was habitually being dumped. Midway PAC elected its first new officers in more than a decade last night.
McCurry said that members of the group were planning to plant flowers and beautify the area, in order to discourage dumping.
“[Like Jackson Park] this is another Olmsted-designed park. It’s a beautiful, beautiful park. Clearing it up from the Sands of Time all the way to the Circular Garden is our goal. To make it a beautiful place to be again,” said McCurry.