A request from village hall to assume responsibility for an underutilized state-owned park may have cleared its first hurdle. The small green space was thought to be under a lease agreement with the Forest Park Park District, however, park and state officials have no record of a current contract, leaving a clear path for the municipality to step in.
“Where we’re at with this now is the village could make a formal request (to lease the site),” Marisa Kollias, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Transportation said. “That would probably be the next step.”
Senior Citizens Park, as the 98-foot by 40-foot plot is known, could be a gateway property that the village can be proud of, according to municipal officials. As it sits now, the park is rarely used and contains only a single picnic table, a park bench and a solitary swing for children. A 4-foot chain link fence borders the property.
The transportation agency owns the park, which is located just north of the Eisenhower Expressway at the junction with Harlem Avenue. When the village expressed an interest in the property this summer both the state and the park district attempted to review their lease agreement, presumably to see whether the contract could be transferred. It appears the lease expired several years ago.
“That’s what we’re finding out,” Park District Executive Director Larry Piekarz said.
According to Kollias, the most recent agreement between IDOT and the park district was signed in 1996 and expired in 2001. Piekarz said he believed the last lease was signed in 1999. Regardless of the lack of a formal contract, park district staff has continued to maintain the property and Piekarz said that will still be the case until the village and IDOT decide otherwise.
Village Administrator Mike Sturino said the village has not advanced the issue since initially stating its interest in the site.