Winter Day Camp On North Side Called ‘Unattractive’ By Neighbors

Chicago (CBS) — Peterson Park is usually brimming with kids in the summer, playing soccer, basketball and more.

But, in the winter, a tiny group visits the 23-acre park to a cold weather classroom that’s now under fire.

The Forest Playschool is a tribe of kids who meet for four hours everyday unless it dips below 15 degrees.

“We love that our city-dwelling kids can be fully immersed in nature,” parent Heidi Zeiger said.

But, several community members are concerned about the outdoor camp, especially regarding its use of open flames.

One neighbor recently complained to 39th Ward Ald. Margaret Laurino’s office that the “area has become unattractive.”

“They want us to be moved off this site,” the Forest Playschool’s director Teresa Weed said.

But, Weed said relocating to a different part of the park by Peterson Avenue won’t work.

“The children have a relationship with this place,” she said. “We can’t just abruptly move them out of this place.”

Weed said the playschool’s had no incidents in the five winters they’ve been at their current location. She said she complied with complaints about a debris-filled “adventureland” in the past and cleaned up tires that upset neighbors. She hopes to work with them again to resolve their worries.

Parents are also worried about the other location’s proximity to traffic.

Ald. Laurino said she has no problem with the camp if they follow the rules.

“I don’t have opposition to Forest School as long as they adhere to their contract and be good neighbors including picking up after themselves,” Ald. Laurino said.

Chicago Park District officials will discuss the Forest Playschool at a meeting on March 5.

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