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District launches new Gender Diversity Policy, DEI priorities, updates and strengthens employee trainings, hosts inclusive events, and makes accessibility infrastructure improvements in parks citywide 
The Chicago Park District is proud to announce the launch of more inclusive park employee and visitor policies and procedures to make all of our parks and facilities even more welcoming for park patrons. Park visitors are some of the most diverse audiences, and that fact makes it our responsibility to offer safe, supportive and inclusive environments for youth, patrons, and employees to foster a sense of belonging in all of our park spaces and programs.   

The new Chicago Park District policies create an inclusive park system for patrons and staff, and as a result, foster an even more harmonious atmosphere for all in our parks. Our new Gender Diversity Policy serves to create a park environment in which patrons and employees are able to freely express their gender while engaged in Park District activities. This policy is intended to build a sense of belonging for everyone and address the needs and concerns of transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming employees while at work, and patrons while they are participating in Park District activities, events, or programs. The policy provides staff with resources to create inclusive environments for patrons and other staff members.  Learn more about the policy here

In addition, the Chicago Park District is committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts by hiring a new DEI Officer, relaunching our internal DEI committees, developing employee resource groups, and strengthening trainings for all staff. These resources will equip Park District staff with the tools and knowledge to be upstanders in our workplace. Some of the trainings include Harassment Prevention and Bystander/Upstander trainings, along with trainings on LGBTQIA+ allyship.  

“I am very proud of the strides that we are making as organization to recognize and celebrate the diversity in cultures and experiences of every individual that visits one of parks or is employed at the Chicago Park District,” said Chicago Park District Superintendent & CEO, Rosa Escareño. “With the creation of this policy and initiatives, Chicago’s parks will be places where everyone will know that they are welcomed.” 

As part of our DEI commitment, the Park District will host numerous employee-led initiatives to strengthen workplace experiences, starting with launching a Women’s Employee Resource Group learning series for all employees who identify as women. 
June and July Pride Celebrations 

The Park District is strengthening its commitment to recognizing the diversity of its workforce and park patrons by launching these initiatives during Pride Month and by celebrating with a series of events in the parks in conjunction with various heritage months, observations and holidays. These events are representative of our staff and the communities that we serve. Most recently, the Park District staff and park program participants celebrated on the Chicago Park District’s float at the Puerto Rican Day Parade at Humboldt Park.  
The Park District will also join in the Pride Parade festivities on June 30, and host Tierra Columbiana at Kosciusko Park on July 13 to commemorate Columbian Independence. The Pride festivities in our parks will continue through the month of July with the launch of a series of Queering the Parks events at various park locations that kick off on July 12 and culminate with the Queer Radical Fair at Ping Tom Park on July 25. The Queering the Parks initiative is a joyful and affirming celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community in Chicago created in partnership with the Chicago Park District. The goal of the group is to uplift the culture and artistry of queer Chicago through a series of playful activations in our parks. 
In addition, the Chicago Park District will recognize Juneteenth this Saturday, June 15 at LeClaire Hearst Park and Commercial Club Park. Expect a full day of activities emphasizing the achievements of the African American community in commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.  
Important Operational and Infrastructure Updates 

Other important changes to the Park District’s procedures include updating our patron activity registration system and our internal human resource systems to be more reflective of the communities we serve and welcoming of new staff by:  

  • Adding “non-binary” as a gender option for patrons registering for a park program, in addition to “male” and “female,”  
  • Including an option in our registration system for patrons to share their pronouns with staff, 
  • Adding “non-binary” as a gender option in our application system and our internal human resources system, in addition to “male” and “female,”  
  • Including the option for applicants and staff to share their pronouns and affirmed name in our application and internal human resources systems. 

Infrastructure must also be inclusive and welcoming of park visitors of all identities. Just this week, the Park District broke ground on the first Park District facility with dedicated gender-neutral bathrooms. This design serves to be welcoming for members of the community who are gender diverse, people with disabilities and their caretakers of different genders, along with parents of children who are of different genders. The design for Cragin Park was mindful of the community and their needs. From the conception of the project, the designs proposed by Chicago-based STLarchitects delivered on creating public spaces that support meaningful engagement by residents of all interests, identities, and abilities. 

In addition, the Park District has committed to a multi-year capital improvement initiative to enhance voting accessibility for patrons with disabilities at more than 140 park-based polling sites across the city. Approximately 60 park locations are either in construction or nearing completion and another 83 parks are in design with construction expected to start in 2024. 

Upon opening our beaches, the Park District also unveiled 15 beach access walks that lead patrons to the shoreline. At North Avenue and Margaret T. Burroughs Beaches, a solid surface beach walk was installed to replace the beach mat surface formerly in place. In addition, eight beaches have a beach wheelchair available for free use by the public during beach hours. 

In upcoming months, the Park District will be starting construction on the first inclusive playground in the city. The 21,000 square-foot playground at Midway Plaisance, 1130 Midway Plaisance North, in the Hyde Park community will offer a variety of play features that allow side-by-side play including an ADA accessible swing, a slide with a transfer platform for wheelchair users and variety of sensory nooks.