We've been cheering the Park District of Forest Park and its dogged efforts to build a new recreation center for a long, long time. Now that we are 10 days away from the opening of the rightly named Roos Recreation Center, our enthusiastic support is unwavering.
From its overwhelming success in convincing Forest Parkers to hike their taxes in a long-ago referendum vaguely promising a someday new community center, to its patience and persistence in the face of the real estate market collapse of a decade back in buying the decrepit Roos Cedar Chest factory building at a very smart price, to its sincere efforts to preserve the landmark structure and its wise choice finally to demolish it, the park board and its staff have made one good decision after another.
Along the way, the park board made strong connections with state legislators and brought home some $4 million in state and federal funding toward this project. A neat trick in a basically bankrupt state.
Now, with May 26 set as its opening, Larry Piekarz, the park's soon-to-retire executive director, can proudly say the project is coming in on time and some $100,000 under budget. That, too, is some accomplishment.
Sitting adjacent to the district's main park, the new Roos is the most notable accomplishment by this park district since at least its remaking of a run-of-the-mill public pool into the current Aquatic Center.
Congratulations and thanks are in order to all involved in this significant achievement.
Marching to East
It was a mutual failing. Forest Park and its elementary schools turned its collective back to Proviso East for decades. And the District 209 Proviso Township high schools did the same.
The opening of the Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park a decade ago created a limited connection between the elementary and high school districts. But there has been very little cross-promotion between our elementary and middle school and Proviso East. Until now.
We loved seeing the audacious Proviso East Marching Band perform last week for students at Field-Stevenson. It was outreach at its best. Talented, enthused and connected teens modeling the virtues of their high school for Forest Park youngsters considering their next steps beyond middle school.
Proviso East is a viable choice for Forest Park's graduates. And it is ever more viable with new leadership and energy in the venerable First Avenue school, energized and transformational leadership at the district level, and a school board fully focused on education and community after decades of political calculus by a failed school board.
The marching band made high school look fun, like a place you can belong and thrive.
Good for District 91 for opening its doors to its public high school and to that high school for marching right in.