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Friends Of The Park Group Has Long History Of Fighting Lakefront Development

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel is making a last ditch effort to save the Lucas Museum for Chicago. He's asking the federal court of appeals to throw out the Friends of the Parks' lawsuit.

Meantime, Chicagoans who want the museum, among them fans of George Lucas' Star Wars, demonstrated outside Friends of the Parks' headquarters in the Loop.

Since 1975, the watchdog group has taken on city government and others who want projects on the lakefront.

CBS 2's Jim Williams takes a closer look at Friends of the Parks, its mission and its history.

Different mayors, same opposition. Nearly a decade ago, Friends of the Park successfully fought to block Mayor Daley's effort to move the Children's Museum from Navy Pier to Grant Park.

"The people think that the children can't go to a museum," Daley said then.

25 years ago, they led the campaign to shut to a gun club on the lake.

As architecture critic Lee Bey points out, Friends of the Park has taken its role as lakefront watchdog very seriously since it was founded 40 years by cultural power Lois Weisberg.

"Keeping the spaces clear, keeping them clean, keeping them accessible to people," said Bey.

Free of the kind of structures that line lakefronts in other cities like Toronto.

It is consistent with the early 20th century vision of Daniel Burnham and Aaron Montgomery Ward. The lakefront, they said, should be reserved for people to enjoy beauty and recreation.

"Where he or she can go and enjoy cool breezes and open spaces," Bey said.

But Mayor Emanuel argues by fighting the Lucas Museum, Friends of the Park is only protecting a parking lot south of Soldier Field.

"Now if it goes to Los Angeles, who here thinks that will not be a parking lot in the next 10 years?"

This afternoon, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said about the museum, "The force is strong in Los Angeles and our city is deeply invested in the legacy of George Lucas ... and we would welcome it in Los Angeles."

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