Sometimes it is hard to get things to come out in the right order. The park district proved that last week when it determinedly put egg on its own face by calling for a public brainstorming session on what to build at the new Roos property. Some 50 eager, well-meaning citizens came out on a rainy winter night and talked up walking paths and fitness centers, a place for teens and party rooms.
It was citizen participation at its grassroots-iest finest. Then the 50 folks walked out the door, going home to watch the Olympics, grab a late dinner, and the park board convened its actual official meeting and trotted out its paid architects who presented a rough draft of what ought to be built at the Roos.
Rightly embarrassed, the park district and its executive director Larry Piekarz started explaining as soon as the commenters hit the board at ForestParkReview.com. Their explanation may be plausible if out of order.
Piekarz said the architects’ plans are a sort of generic placeholder hastily created to meet an unexpected deadline from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for what could be a bonanza of grant money to help fund the park’s construction. The park district learned of the deadline in late January and has only until next week to present an application.
The park district really does want to hear from residents, he said. It isn’t in any way too late to incorporate new ideas, he said. And what will be presented to the state is a sort of “best-of” new park features that have won favor with the state poobahs in past applications from other towns. Oak Park’s park district is also racing through a public participation process for upgrading its pools to meet a March deadline from the state.
Our conclusion: This looks disingenuous, but we’ll give the park district the benefit of the doubt. We look forward to more chances for the public to make suggestions and then to weigh in on this project as it develops.