Promised for two years, and then executed in January, the village’s online resident survey asked 43 questions to get citizen input on land planning and life in general in Forest Park.
The survey was designed by comprehensive plan consultants Images Inc. using the Survey Monkey tool. By the time the survey closed in February at www.pictureforestpark.net, it was answered by around 260 participants, or less than two percent of the 12,000 village households. Twelve business owners also answered a separate survey.
The village has not yet released the results of the survey, but a FOIA from the Forest Park Review revealed that those who did fill out the survey had strong opinions about the future of Forest Park.
“I was not that surprised by anything on the survey,” said Village Administrator Tim Gillian. “I think it turned about the way I expected it would.”
He added, “That’s not to say it wasn’t a worthwhile exercise; I think it was.”
When asked the most appealing features of Forest Park, the village’s convenient transportation options were top of the list. While 64 percent of respondents said they drove alone for their commute, 68 percent said they walked or biked, and 44.8 percent indicated they rode the CTA trains. (Respondents could give more than one answer.)
Pedestrian and bike amenities ranked high on improvements for Roosevelt Road and the CTA Blue Line as well as a call for crosswalks on Desplaines Avenue.
Comments included: “Upgrade walking trails along the Des Plaines River,” “crosswalk needed at Lehmer and Circle,” “for pedestrian safety cars should have no turn on red near the Harlem Avenue CTA Blue Line stop,” “wider sidewalks on Circle Ave. bridge.”
More safety improvements at CTA stations were also requested. “The CTA Blue Line station should be condemned,” opined one survey-taker. “The roof should be removed as it is nothing but a disease ridden harbor for birds.”
Fifty-one percent of participants ranked the CTA Blue Line as the top “concern for safety” in the village.
Survey respondents pointed out the vacant car lot at the corner of Desplaines Avenue and Roosevelt Road as areas that needed redevelopment. They also mentioned the U.S. Army Reserve property at 7410 Roosevelt Road and the U.S. Postal Service Bulk Mail facility at 7500 Roosevelt.
In comments, survey-takers made suggestions for the car dealership: “This would make an excellent arts center with a theater/art gallery space,” wrote one. Another commenter suggested a “new village hall.”
Some survey takers said the village should stop spending money on Madison Street and start promoting Roosevelt Road.
The village has made Roosevelt Road into a TIF district to spur development and acquired a $2.3 million beautification grant for the street from the state within the past couple of months.
Schools, charter schools, high schools
Forest Parkers taking the survey had strong opinions about the Forest Park public high school options, with many parent commenters asserting they would move rather than send their children to Proviso schools.
Several commenters suggested building a new Forest Park charter school, while others said the town’s attachment to the Proviso Township High School taxing district caused high taxes and family flight from the village. Others suggested trying to merge with Oak Park and River Forest High School.
“Do whatever possible to separate from Proviso East. Improve junior high,” wrote one commenter.
Sewers and flooding
When asked to prioritize infrastructure improvement projects, 57 percent of respondents (137) prioritized “expanding sewer capacity” as their number one goal. “More brick streets or pervious pavement,” suggested one. “Provide significant grants for individuals to install flood control measure on their own property (like River Forest),” wrote another. “I think the best thing the village could do for individuals living here is address the rainwater issue,” wrote another.
The village announced at the last council meeting that a plan to separate storm drainage from the sewer systems was being drafted by village engineer Christopher Burke Engineering.
Other areas for redevelopment
Villagers suggested several other areas in town where redevelopment might take place. These included the south side of Harrison Street across from the park (with specific references to the “nuisance property” Pines nightclub). Also mentioned were getting rid of residential property on Harlem Avenue to make more business available and redevelopment near the Harlem Avenue Green Line stop.