John Doss (left) and Matt Walsh

The Park District is truly a crown jewel of our town. Our pool is the best public facility within miles, our beloved turf soccer fields are well maintained and constantly used. Not to mention the ball fields– sites of decades of Little League and No-Glove softball triumphs.

Now we have an opportunity to improve it even further with the imminent acquisition of the Roos property. Our endorsement is based on who we feel has the vision to make the Roos project the best it can be. The Roos project will enhance property values in Forest Park and will improve our already-top notch recreation opportunities.

Three candidates are running for two open seats in this race, incumbents John Doss and Sam Alonzo, Sr. and Matt Walsh.

We endorse John Doss, current board president, and Matt Walsh for the Park Board.

Doss has steered the board through a frustrating hurry-up-and-wait journey as the Roos building stumbled through the foreclosure process. The board under Doss has demonstrated stewardship of the $2 million in referendum funds waiting to create the new park facility at the Roos.

But Doss (and Alonzo) both insist residents need to be once more polled about what they want the Park to do with the property. Needs have changed. District 91 will be partnering with the Park District for its new universal preschool program – the Roos will house this program, at least one day per week.

The Village of Forest Park has aged in the 10 years since the 2000 census, so clearly more programing for middle-aged and senior residents is desirable. We support Doss and hope continuation is smooth the for Roos acquisition.We are impressed once again by Matt Walsh, who ran for village commissioner in 2011 while still in high school at age 18 and garnered an impressive number of votes. Since then, Walsh has entered college and volunteered in the Virginia field offices of the Obama campaign.

Walsh touts his connection to the Park: from tumbling classes in preschool through Little League and Soccer leagues. Like many Forest Park kids, Matt said, his connection to his home town has been reinforced by his Park experiences.

But we don’t just like Walsh’s hometown loyalty. Walsh has also suggested several changes and improvements he thinks will help the Park become even better.

First, he has already researched matching grants available to help Forest Park build an indoor gym at the Roos parcel – a need that is supported by all. Second, Walsh wants to partner with neighboring communities to create sports leagues for volleyball, basketball and other sports. Walsh points out that after age 13, the Park doesn’t really offer much for teenagers. We like the vision of providing structured activities for teens instead of chasing them out of the Park. It’s parallel with the far-seeing thought process used by Forest Park Public Library to create the basement teen space.

We were troubled by photos of Walsh, 20, grasping a beer bottle at an Obama victory party and others portraying him standing behind what looked like the setup of a drinking game. These pictures appeared on the Tom Mannix-linked blog, Forestparktruthsquad.com. To Walsh’s credit, the candidate quickly contacted the blog and issued an apology for his lack of judgment. Like many of his contemporaries, Walsh was caught up in the unintended perils of social media. And what about the fireworks? Walsh’s plan to bring them back in 2014 – like the Southside Irish parade – seems naïve, but we will say this: The problems of Forest Park public events being deemed so dangerous they have to be cancelled is a result of reactive rather than pro-active thinking.

To us, Walsh is displaying a forward vision that imagines what could be instead of just removing a bad situation.

Sam Alonzo, Jr. has been hard working board member and an indefatigable volunteer at the Park. We acknowledge his service, but we think the voters of Forest Park would be unwise to pass up the energy and vision of Walsh for this post.

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