People typically head to Chicago parks to go for a walk or a jog, play sports or otherwise unwind.
Now, they can also pick up their latest goods from Amazon.
The e-commerce giant recently began installing lockers in Chicago parks, and says the lockers are a benefit to the community.
In a statement to WTTW News, an Amazon spokesperson said:
“We have been working closely with the Chicago Park District since 2020 to add Amazon Lockers following requests from the District for this added benefit for the community. The focus of our partnership has been to provide park patrons and community members with access to a secure and convenient delivery option.”
But that so-called convenience has proven controversial.
Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Parks, says her organization has experienced an “unusual, extremely high volume” of inquiries from people expressing concerns about how they can get involved in the fight against Amazon lockers in parks.
“You go to the park for recreational activities,” Irizarry said. “Escape from the mundane day-to-day, to look at trees and the lakefront. Not to do commerce or look at lockers. It’s an assault on the physical and mental health of Chicagoans.”
The plan for these Amazon hubs is to be in about 100 locations; the Chicago Park District says 46 have so far been installed, and four have been removed by Amazon amid community reaction.
In a statement last week, the park district highlighted five supporters of the lockers.
One supporter is Ald. Patrick Thompson (11th Ward), who said, “I commend the Park District for trying to creatively generate new revenue for our parks. Not only do the Amazon Lockers provide a benefit for our neighbors who utilize the lockers, it also generates revenue that goes directly into funding park programs for our children.”
Irizarry believes public pressure needs to continue.
“Beyond the specific question around Amazon lockers, this is a good opportunity for Chicagoans who have been mobilized by this to keep asking the question of commercialization around Chicago,” Irizarry said. “A lot of people find it useful or convenient, but that doesn’t mean the park is the right place for them.”
Note: “Chicago Tonight” invited a representative from the Chicago Park District to join this conversation, but they were unavailable. We also reached out to a couple of City Council members who support the lockers in Chicago parks, but they also declined our invitation.