Pocket parks may get a makeover

Rec Board putting together a 5-year plan

February 4th, 2020 1:34 PM

The rec board has plans to upgrade the pocket parks, including Veterans Park across from the dog park on Circle Avenue and Lehmer Street.

By Maria Maxham

For the first time in years, the Forest Park Recreation Board has a full complement of members — seven — and is putting together a five-year plan to make significant improvements to the village parks and playgrounds. These parks include the dog park on Circle Avenue and Lehmer Street, the green space across the street and to the south of Ed's Way, the tot lot on Lathrop Avenue north of Roosevelt Road, Remembrance Park at Thomas Avenue and Adams Street, Veterans Park at Circle Avenue and Lehmer Street, and Reiger Park at Circle Avenue and 16th Street. These parks, though often thought to be under the purview of the park district, are actually overseen and maintained by the village, with influence from the recreation board.

The board's acting chair, Jordan Kuehn, who joined the board in 2016 when previous mayor Tony Calderone held a volunteer drive to increase membership on village boards and commissions, said he's excited to have all seats filled.

"We had trouble meeting quorum before," said Kuehn. "So it was difficult to get things done." With the recent appointment of Bob Dorneker by the village council, not only do they have seven members, but they have someone who used to run parks and recreation for Evanston. "[Dorneker] has a lot of experience," said Kuehn.

The recreation board, which does monthly inspections of the parks and communicates to Public Works Director John Doss about any issues, is developing a five-year plan for improvements to the areas.

"We took a look at the playgrounds to assess the equipment. We examined how old everything is and what state it's in," said Kuehn. They discovered, he said, that most of the equipment is "super-old." At least 15-25 years old.

The board's next step is pulling together all the necessary information, such as documentation regarding land transfers and plots of survey, to get ready to apply for grants.

Kuehn said developing a list of asks for each park is an important part of the grant process too. The bigger parks, like the one at Circle Avenue and 16th Street, could include equipment for varying age groups. But some of the smaller parks might better serve the community by being designed and geared toward specific ages.

As for the dog park, Kuehn said the recreation board wants to take a serious look at the possibility of keeping it locked — with access and keys being given to permit holders only. "People refer to Forest Park's dog park as the free dog park," said Kuehn. "We think that should change."

None of this is written in stone though. Kuehn said the public's input is important to the rec board. They are developing a survey that they're hoping all residents will fill out in order to determine what the village as a whole would like to see in park improvements.

In addition to Jordan Kuehn, acting chair, the board consists of Monica Angelo, Amy Binns-Calvey, Bob Dorneker, Jenna Smith, Roy Sansone and Brittany Tamul.

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