By Kristin Boza
Paula Robinson is dedicated to progressing the economic development of her community through her work with the Morgan Park Civic League. Community activism is in her blood; Robinson’s grandmother, Annabelle Robinson, was also an active participant in the Morgan Park Civic League, which has been working to improve and enhance Morgan Park since 1937.
Robinson’s community involvement isn’t limited to Morgan Park. She, and the rest of the Civic League, recognizes the impact each south side neighborhood has on one another. Community groups in West Pullman, Beverly, Bronzeville and others all collaborate to stimulate economic development and address housing and transportation issues throughout the south side.
“It’s not so much that we need to develop a lot of things here; we have a lot to offer,” Robinson said. “We focus on highlighting what we have, making connections and giving people reasons to go. Once they get the invitation to come and experience something, then it opens up a whole other level of what you can do and how you engage with people. If people don’t even know what you’ve got, then it’s not so much that we have to get a lot of new things, but we just need to figure out how to engage the community.”
Promoting the Major Taylor Trail is a big push of Robinson’s — not only to get people to use it, but to encourage companies to open businesses along the trail that runs from the Dan Ryan Woods to Whistler Woods. “On the northwest side of the city, we’ve seen the success of the 606 Trail and what it’s done to bring communities and neighborhoods together. The bike trail is a community asset and spurs more development.”
Outdoor recreation is a great way to connect communities, according to Robinson. “It’s beneficial for the whole well-being, wellness and health of a community as a whole,” she said. The Civic League is also looking for ways to partner with local artists to install art along the path. “With the tie-in with art and culture, these trails can not only be about recreation, but provide a cultural benefit to the community as well,” she said.
Besides the Major Taylor Trail, Robinson and the Morgan Park Civic League always aim to determine how to create action and excitement around things that already exist. The annual Roots Festival, a farmer’s market, and economic development along 111th Street are other focuses for the group. Robinson hopes to get a visitor’s center up and running on 111th Street to alert people going to the Pullman National Monument about other things to do in the area — including grabbing a steak sandwich at the famed Home of the Hoagy, 1316 W. 111th St., and enjoying a cup of coffee at the Old Morgan Park Coffee Shop at 111th and Loomis.
“We have a lot of wonderful history for people to see, a beautiful bike trail and other amenities that are interesting to visitors and residents alike,” Robinson said. “Morgan Park is an older community, and we have to identify new housing and new opportunities to attract younger people who will want to keep our community sustainable.”
To find out more or to get involved, visit the Morgan Park Civic League on Facebook.