While the Riverside Parks and Recreation Commission has taken a pass and the Riverside village board has punted, the discussion Monday night about picnicking in Riverside parks shows exactly the reason why the issue needs to be reconsidered and the outright ban on picnics amended.

Pressed to give advice on what to do if a family wanted to go spread out a blanket on Scottswood Common and have a sandwich, the answers by village trustees ranged from “go ahead and have a ball” to “get thee to a forest preserve grove” to “why do you need to eat in a park?”

People, this is plain goofy.

What this whole thing boils down to – and has always boiled down to – is that for some reason Riverside residents believe there is a ravenous horde of picnickers, armed with barrels of beer, trumpets and Weber ranch kettles waiting to descend on the village’s glorious parks and turn them into the Cermak Woods on a summer Sunday (at least when the pool was still rolling over there. Man, those were some picnics).

This kind of thinking is delusional and screamingly parochial.

What Tom Jacobs – the man who wants to have a picnic with his family across the street from his house in Scottswood Common – has proposed is incredibly modest and thoughtful. Let families spread a blanket. Groups from nine to 29 need to get a permit, and groups of 30 or more need a special event permit – like it’s equivalent to the July 3 Concert in the Park, with the full support of the village board for crying out loud. In short, the village will be able to fight off the stereo- and beer-wielding invaders through a permitting process.

Apart from the issue of crowds, which can be controlled by a permitting process such as the one outlined above, all of the other concerns are dealt with elsewhere in the village code – alcohol, loud music, disorderly conduct, littering.

Telling residents to flout locals laws (hey, they’re meant for the outsiders) is silly. Either it’s a law or it isn’t. And making them lawbreakers for downing some chicken salad while sitting on Olmsted’s green lawn is nuts.

Picnicking is not a threat to public health or public safety. Really.


Cheers for chickens

At their village board meeting on Sept. 12, Brookfield trustees appeared to be taking halting steps toward allowing residents to raise up to three hens in their backyards. This is progress.

While village staff will have to work hard to come up with appropriate regulations and a permitting process in order to do this the right way, it’s heartening to see the village leading the way – at least in the immediate locality – on this issue.

No one wants a nuisance next door. But we don’t believe hens will be any more a nuisance than dogs or other pets if properly controlled through the village code.

Who knows, maybe the locally produced egg salad can be slapped between a couple of slices of bread and eaten quietly in one of Brookfield’s parks, where such strange activity is allowed. Be careful about any such furtive forays into Riverside. You may want to hide your blanket behind a tree.