For organizers of the PlanIt Green sustainability study, the release of the bulky plan is only the beginning: It will be up to residents, local businesses and government officials to carry the mantle.
“As much as we’re really excited to have this plan be finished right now, the real proof is going to be a year from now, two years from now, 10 years from now, to see whether or not implementation has actually occurred," said Gary Cuneen, executive director of Seven Generations Ahead, the Oak Park nonprofit leading the effort along with the Delta Institute and the Center for Neighborhood Technology.
The roughly 90-page document, scheduled for a full release in early July, outlines strategies for ways to boost sustainability in Oak Park and River Forest in the areas of education, energy, waste, water, community development, transportation, green economic development, open space and ecosystem preservation, and food.
A draft version of the plan accompanies this story as a PDF document.
At the plan release party, which took place June 23 at the Pleasant Home in Mills Park, officials from various local institutions took to the podium and praised the initiative, believed to the first of its kind joint effort between two municipalities.
"This needs to be a plan that doesn't sit on a shelf," said Oak Park Village President David Pope, adding that implementing the plan will be "the opportunity for [Oak Park] to be able to tear down the wall that so often runs down the middle of Harlem Avenue."
And given the area's proximity to Chicago, local government officials believe the plan could be the impetus for something much larger across the Midwest.
Also offering comment at the plan release party were River Forest village administrator Eric Palm, former Oak Park Trustee Jan Pate, past Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation president Boyd McDowell and Sophia Lloyd, current executive director of the OPRF Community Foundation, the philanthropic group who's CommunityWorks endowment fund bankrolled the effort, which included three phases and dates back several years.
“As a foundation we’re committed to stewarding this community toward sustainability and well-being," Lloyd said, adding that environmental sustainability is merely “one piece of a sustainable community.”
Here's who's in so far:
Park District of Oak Park
Oak Park Elementary School District 97
Village of River Forest
West Suburban Medical Center
Oak Park Township
Oak Park-River Forest High School District 200
More additions to the list, including Rush Oak Park Hospital, the Village of Oak Park, the River Forest Park District, the public libraries in Oak Park and River Forest and River Forest Public Schools District 90 are planned throughout July.
Groups looking to adopt the plan are encouraged to visit the Seven Generations Ahead website for more information.