The Park District showed off its recently renovated headquarters and made connections with two state legislators March 29 at a breakfast event intended to promote the interests of the host organization.
“It just establishes a good relationship and lets people know that Forest Park exists,” Park District Executive Director Larry Piekarz said. “The thing we wanted to get out of it is to let them know we’re here.”
State Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, and Rep. Karen Yarbrough, D-Maywood, both attended. State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, and State Rep. Deborah Graham, D-Chicago, were invited but did not attend, according to Piekarz.
The Park District has not received significant state money in recent years, although it did receive $1,200 last year for an automatic defibrillator, Piekarz said. It is the second such device to be purchased by the district.
Most state money for local park districts comes from the Open Space Land Acquisition Fund, which is supported with revenues from the real estate transfer tax. Money from the fund has not been distributed yet this year because of budget difficulties in Springfield, said Harmon.
“It’s an executive responsibility,” Harmon said.
The Park District would like to get some state money to help pay for the next phase of work to be done at the central office building, which was recently renovated to include accommodations for handicapped users. The next round of work includes refinishing a number of hardwood floors and renovating a kitchen.
The upgrades completed earlier this year cost the district $2 million.
“We would have liked to have some help for the construction project,” Piekarz said.
But Harmon said the money from OSLAF usually pays specifically for the acquisition or improvement of park land, not buildings. The last time the Forest Park Park District received significant state aid was when the swimming pool was rebuilt 11 years ago. The state contributed about $200,000 toward the $3 million price tag, according to Piekarz. The Park District also received about $25,000 a few years ago, which helped establish the teen center.
Just prior to the legislative breakfast event, Piekarz and two district commissioners traveled to Springfield as part of an annual meeting with state legislators coordinated by the Illinois Association of Park Districts. They used the opportunity to discuss the needs of the local park with legislators, but Piekarz said he was unsure that any help will be soon in coming.
“The legislators we have hear us, but their hands are tied too,” Piekarz said.
Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone and other officials from neighboring park districts also attended the breakfast event.