Back in 2005, the Park District of Oak Park sought a referendum that raised property taxes in exchange for the promise of a more robust park offerings throughout the village.
Six years and more than a dozen master plans later, renovations for many local parks are either underway or nearing completion.
Beginning today, Oak Park-River Forest Patch will offer a comprehensive look at the progress of the work, and we'll add up the totals for how much the renovations have cost. In other words, it's a look at what your money's been paying for the past several years.
Where: 820 N. Hayes, at Division, three blocks west of Austin Blvd.
Size: Approximately 1.3 acres.
History: Andersen was acquired in 1916 and named after children’s author Hans Christian Andersen. The center was originally designed by John S. Van Bergen, an Oak Park architect who worked for a time withat his studio.
Features: Andersen has a multi-purpose field, two age-appropriate playground areas, splash pad, roll hill, walkways, seating areas with chess tables, drinking fountain, bicycle rack, restrooms in Andersen Center. The Center has a multi-purpose room that can be rented for parties, showers and meetings.
Work Accomplished So Far: The master plan for this park was completed in 2005 and approved in early 2006. Phase One was started, and completed, in 2006. That included installation of new playground equipment, splash pad (turned on in 2007), roll hill, walkways, drinking fountain, bicycle rack, security lighting, replacement fencing, woven willow dome, interpretive signage, landscaping, and decorative paved seating areas. New benches were added in 2008. Andersen Center improvements were completed in 2006 and 2010.
Cost to Improve: So far $457,265.
Grant funded: No
What's Next: Phase II improvements will be done at the north end of the park and include walkway enhancements, replacement fencing, additional landscaping, signage, and a raised berm for watching games in the multipurpose field. A small rain garden to the west of the Center is also proposed. That’s all slated for 2013. Estimated cost is $325,000.
Where: At 127 Garfield St., three blocks west of Austin Blvd. The Center is at 1011 Lombard, 4 blocks west of Austin Blvd., directly south of I-290 Expressway.
Size: 4.22 acres, including the Center.
History: Named after Scottish author J.M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan. From 1893 to 1931, the site housed the Cicero Gas Co., which produced gas for heating, lighting and cooking. The village purchased the property in 1959 and transferred it to the park district in 1965. The site was leveled, re-graded, seeded, and converted to a recreational park and was used for sledding, ball games, and other activities. In 1999, the site was closed after coal tar was found at various depths throughout the park. A massive cleanup effort began in 2001. with renovations staring in the spring of 2004. The park was rededicated in 2005.
Features: Barrie Park has a sled hill, a ball field and soccer field, a creative play area, ornamental and shade trees and a walking path that encircles the park (.32 miles). Barrie Center features a field house, tot lot and multi-use sport court area.
Work Accomplished So Far: There was no master plan completed for the park. Planning for Center improvements was undertaken in 2007 and nearly $255,000 was spent over four years to among other things repair the roof, replace locks, doors and storage places and upgrade the ventilation system, and other improvements.
Grant funded: No.
What's Next: Approximately $150,000 has been allocated in 2011 to improve site drainage and turf quality of sports fields and tune-ups to the playground areas.
Where: 610 S. Ridgeland at Jackson Street (right across the street from ).
Size: 2.62 acres.
History: American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The land was acquired in 1920; the recreation center was built in 1966.
Features: The community’s only full-court basketball court, baseball fields, lighted tennis courts that also convert into a temporary outdoor ice rink in the winter and a field house.
Work Accomplished So Far: A master plan was undertaken in 2006 and approved in early 2007. In 2008, the Center’s restrooms were made ADA accessible, an elevator was installed, restroom fixtures and ventilation systems were upgraded and the air condition was replaced. In 2008, park improvements included installing a full-sized basketball court with spectator area. New accessible and creative playground equipment, a new splash pad, a ramp to gain access to the restrooms, a new north entranceway to the center and art walk, a walkway around the center, and a renovated entryway plaza on the south side of the center with additional seating. Benches, drinking fountains, bicycle racks and landscape and lighting were also added.
Cost To Improve: Overall, improvements at the park and the center have cost nearly $1.8 million.
Grant Funded: Yes. The park district received a $400,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to create two playgrounds, expand the water play area and build a full-court basketball court with a spectator seating area. Approximately $200,000 of a $235,000 from the Good Heart Work Smart Foundation was used towards installation of a new elevator and lobby access area at Longfellow Center. Approximately $100,000 of a $220,000 Access to Recreation grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation helped pay for other improvements at Longfellow.
What's Next: In 2011, the park district will replace a 1965-era boiler and windows. Next year the park district plans to install security cameras at the basketball court. These improvements are estimated to cost $30,000.