I’ve got stronger ties to the Forest Park Naval Reserve Center than most.
In high school I participated in Sea Cadets there. My roommate from the U.S. Naval Academy, Steve Brown, served as commanding officer. I attended both his incoming and outgoing change of command ceremonies. And I’ve interviewed reservists for stories.
But the REVIEW and Michael Sturino are right.
Forest Park could benefit more from having the real estate on the tax rolls than it does from the reserve center. The reserve center employees few people during the week and they contribute to business at local eateries, but not much.
The local restaurants get more of a boost on drill Saturdays, but this is only a couple days a month.
Forest Park receives no property tax from the Reserve Center and it is hard to imagine the property being used in a way that would generate less revenue for the Village of Forest Park and the public schools.
Even other uses exempt from property taxes would probably generate more business.
Forest Park does lose some history if the Naval Reserve Center in Forest Park closes, but the history is inaccessible. The reserve center doesn’t display its history for the public.
Maybe Forest Park leaders can create a win-win outcome. What if the developer were required to include a Forest Park military museum?
Staffing a traditional museum will be challenging, but why limit the possibilities to a traditional museum?
In Washington, DC the FDR Memorial tells the story of his presidency. Could Forest Park commission artists and historians to create a public space with sculptures and plaques to tell the relevant stories?
What was the history of the torpedo factory? What was the history of the Navy base and Reserve Center? Who were the Forest Park residents that died serving the country?
In the best of all worlds the museum would address the following questions also:
What caused the wars?
How did people feel about the wars at the time?
How did the wars affect Forest Park?
How could the wars have been prevented?
When Naval Air Station Glenview closed and the land developed, there was a temporary arrangement for a museum. But failure to raise enough money has threatened its continued existence.
Forest Park needs to be careful to avoid this fate. Whatever Forest Park does to commemorate its history, it needs to be financially sustainable.
It would be nice to also have an indoor museum that has more pictures and text so people can better understand Forest Park’s history. But if Forest Park includes an indoor museum it needs to have a reliable source of income.
People can criticize this vision for the property because museums are off the tax rolls just as much as federally owned property. However, only a small portion of the property should be used for a museum.
Even after setting aside public space land for the outdoor museum and some indoor space and there will still be plenty of land and space for stores, condos and parking.
Whatever plan Forest Park implements should bring revenue to the village and the school system. With foresight, Forest Park can increase revenue and tastefully commemorate history.