By Kristin Boza
Civic associations are designed to inspire hyper-local participation in matters involving the area of the community where you live. BAPA has proudly supported the resurgence of civic associations to bring neighbors together to get to know one another and work together on projects and problems.
The Southwest Morgan Park Civic Association (SWMPCA) serves the area from Longwood Drive to Western Avenue, and 111th Street to 119th Street. The group has been around for decades, but dwindled in the last few years. Now, with a group of dedicated neighbors, the SWMPCA is ready to once again work to address the concerns of its residents.
Kenith Bergeron, acting president of SWMPCA, said that the group has worked to address tree removals, street repairs, potholes, issues with local businesses, and neighborhood safety.
“We responded to some very dire issues, and worked to get the alderman involved to help us navigate the bigger issues,” Bergeron said. “At this juncture, we are still focused on revitalization, especially on the greenspace at Park No. 581, and we are trying to build a sense of neighborhood and community among residents. We are working to stabilize our neighborhood, making sure our properties are well-kept, increasing safety, and maintaining or increasing our property values.”
The area served by SWMPCA has experienced big changes in recent years. The Morgan Park Sports Center was constructed on 115th Street and Western Avenue, and the resulting closure of 115th Street as a thoroughfare to Western Avenue was hotly debated by SWMPCA members and neighbors. The decision to close 115th Street was opposed by many living near the street. “It was a bittersweet move [to close 115th Street], but it ended up benefitting the neighborhood,” Bergeron said.
Former SWMPCA president Greg Richmond was instrumental in beginning the discussions around the 115th Street then-vacant lot, before it was used to build the Morgan Park Sports Center. He also said that during his time the “Welcome to Southwest Morgan Park” signage on Longwood Drive and 111th Street was installed, and traffic concerns, like speeding and volume of cars, were regular topics of discussion.
SWMPCA works closely with Ald. Matt O’Shea on anything relating to political issues or street upkeep. “We want to work with the Alderman to be a voice of the neighborhood,” Bergeron said. “We’re also collaborating with BAPA to increase our participation in BAPA’s initiatives and implement stronger communication between residents so everyone is able to talk to each other,” Bergeron said. “We want to be a strong civic association and work on projects and seek funding to pay for them.”
Park No. 581, 11625 S. Oakley Ave., has its own park advisory council working to determine next steps for the space. Lorraine Linnerud is the vice president of Park No. 581 Advisory Council, and they are working closely with SWMPCA to gather feedback for the space, and assisting Bergeron as they work to revitalize the civic association.
“It was reinforced through working with Ken that coming together as a community and meeting your neighbors means that there’s strength in numbers,” Linnerud said. “We were able to survey 600 residents to determine our priorities for the greenspace. We’re now working with Ald. O’Shea, State Representative Justin Slaughter, and others to obtain funding for the community’s top priorities: a walking path and better lighting for the park to enhance safety.”
Linking both SWMPCA and the Park No. 581 Advisory Council makes a lot of sense. “We don’t want to be redundant in our efforts and want to find the best way to work together,” Linnerud said.
“Above all, I’m hoping to get our neighbors involved. I want to build that cohesiveness to get neighbors working together on issues and helping one another out,” Bergeron said.
To have a successful civic association, neighbors need to participate! To find out how to get involved in SWMPCA or express concerns or ideas, reach out to Kenith Bergeron at firstname.lastname@example.org.