For months, an advisory committee charged with finding ways to improve a handful of small parks in the village emphasized fencing as a way to bolster both safety and aesthetics. Recent changes to a north side park, however, have the Recreation Board reconsidering its priorities as the village council prepares to sign off on $75,000 for park projects.

During the winter months committee members began researching various landscaping, safety and aesthetic improvements, but without any money in the last fiscal year’s budget for such expenses the conversation was hypothetical. Barring any surprises, the village council will set aside $75,000 later this month as part of the 2008 budget to make some of the group’s recommendations a reality.

Up until last month Jennifer Wolfe, committee chair, and her committee members would have said that new fencing around the parks should take priority. However, the fence around the park at Circle and Randolph streets was removed and Wolfe said the park is much more aesthetically pleasing without it. In fact, Village Administrator Mike Sturino said his office has fielded a number of compliments on the council’s decision to take down the chain link obstruction. Now, Wolfe is optimistic that the budget allocation can be stretched to include new benches, playground equipment, lighting and possibly artwork.

“There’s a lot that we want to redo and take down,” Wolfe said.

But a group of residents who frequent that park are pushing the village to install some sort of fencing that will help prevent young children from darting out into the roads. Sean Blaylock, a parent and school board member, addressed the council recently with a plea for safety.

“A good council, in my opinion, is going to improve the aesthetics of the parks,” Blaylock said. “A good council could improve the safety as well. A great council will do both.”

In all there are five unnamed parks managed by the village government, separate from the Park District facilities on Harrison Street. Ultimately, the village council controls the funding for those recreational spaces and Wolfe’s advisory committee attempts to guide those decisions. The park at Randolph Street and Circle Avenue will take priority in the coming months since it will play host later this year to a time capsule ceremony as part of the village’s centennial.

Park facilities are also located at 16th Street and Circle Avenue, Thomas Avenue and Adams Street, and on the east and west side of the junction of Lehmer Street and Circle Avenue.

Blaylock and a group of roughly a dozen neighborhood residents have met with Mayor Anthony Calderone to discuss their concerns, and Blaylock said they agreed with the mayor that without a fence, the park is certainly more attractive. But the playground equipment is obviously intended for young children, he said, and safety precautions must be taken.

“Otherwise you might as well take the playground equipment out of there,” Blaylock said.

The 2008 budget allocation is part of a multi-year plan to improve the parks, according to Sturino. The goal is to make significant improvements to at least one park in each of the coming years. As for Blaylock’s safety concerns regarding the park at Randolph and Circle, Sturino said at the very least a barrier of some kind will be installed around the playground equipment. Wolfe too, said the absence of a fence raises a concern for safety. Sturino made no guarantees for fencing around the entire facility.

“We fully intend to have some enclosure around playground improvements,” Sturino said.