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Oak Lawn trustee wants hoops taken down in park

Bob Mankowski hopes basketball hoops near his Oak Lawn home are removed.  |  Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media

Bob Mankowski hopes basketball hoops near his Oak Lawn home are removed. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 16, 2013 6:43AM



An Oak Lawn trustee wants to remove basketball hoops from a park near the site of a recent brawl, but park district leaders don’t like the idea.

Trustee Carol Quinlan on Monday night urged the park board to remove the hoops from Little Wolfe Playground, which is near the Wolfe Wildlife Refuge where a brawl broke out Aug. 14 between two groups of teens, one black and one white.

Quinlan originally suggested removing all outdoor basketball hoops from Oak Lawn parks but backed away from that position. She denied any racial overtones to her plan but said the basketball courts attract youths from outside Oak Lawn.

“I know at one point, one of my neighbors had a petition to remove the hoops (at Little Wolfe). This has been going on quite a while, before the fight that happened last month,” Quinlan said.

The Aug. 14 fight, which saw the arrests of two young men, convinced her to push to get rid of the court at Little Wolfe Playground.

“It really is about people from outside Oak Lawn coming in (with) bad behavior,” Quinlan said. “It’s unfortunate. It’s sad, but years ago at that park you’d see the grade school kids or the high school kids from the neighborhood there shooting hoops. Now, you do not see neighborhood kids there for the most part. It’s pretty much people who are coming from outside of Oak Lawn to utilize the park.”

Quinlan lives near the outdoor court she has targeted.

“I don’t even see the moms with their little ones because there are older teens there shooting hoops. I don’t see our kids utilizing it, and I think it’s time. If you want, (take away the hoops) on a temporary basis and see what happens,” she said.

Park board president Sue Murphy is not enamored with the idea, saying Quinlan is concerned about “elements the basketball courts attract. You can go to any park. Oak Lawn is a diverse community. Public parks are for the public. Anybody can use the parks.”

The park board plans to review Quinlan’s proposal, but no action is expected soon, Murphy said.

Asked if there had been big problems with the basketball courts in the village, she said, “we’ve never heard of it.”

Park district director Maddie Kelly echoed that sentiment.

“Our parks are open to anybody, not just those who live here. I’m sure people from Oak Lawn go to Grant Park and Millennium Park in downtown Chicago,” she said.

Bob Mankowski and his wife, Pam, have lived next door to the court for 17 years and would love to bid farewell to the two hoops that stand about 300 feet from their house.

“It’s not just neighborhood kids here. I don’t want to sound racist, but they’re black and I bet they’re not from around here,” Bob Mankowski said.

He supports Quinlan’s idea because he thinks it will provide safer conditions in the park and reduce the chance for fights to break out.

“It’s a shame, but you’ve got to grab the bull by the horns,” he said.

His wife said she worries for her safety in the park because of youths playing basketball there and is sometimes reluctant to walk the couple’s two large dogs through Little Wolfe Playground when there’s a game.

“I don’t know what the answer is. This, this is the attraction,” Pam said, gesturing toward the basketball court. “The game itself can be an instigator. Conversely, I do see blacks and whites playing out there without any problems.”



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