Larry Piekarz was a happy park director as he posed last week with Sen. Kimberly Lightford handing him a facsimile of a check for $1 million. The 4th District State Senator had been able to get the grant for the construction of a new recreation facility being planned for the parcel of land at the corner of Harrison and Circle usually referred to as the Roos property.
“Recently Sen. Lightford called me up,” said Piekarz, “and said she had acquired for us a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.” The grant comes with no strings attached. It can be used for anything inside the building or outside on the grounds.
“This is just amazing!” exclaimed Piekarz, referring in part to the grant coming on the heels of receiving a $2.5 million PARC (Parks and Recreation Facility Construction) grant. “She acquired this grant all on her own initiative.”
Piekarz praised Lightford for being a good friend of Forest Park. “Our local senator is very active in our community. She’s been involved in the Roos project from day one. Regarding the PARC Grant, she set up a meeting in Springfield with the director of the Department of Natural Resources for me and the park board of directors. She set up the meeting to talk about Forest Park, what our needs are and why we aren’t seeing some of the grant money that is available.”
Even more money for the recreation center is hoped for in form of a $400,000 matching grant from the Open Space Land Acquisition and Development Program which is managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Piekarz said that the Park board should hear if they have received the grant sometime this fall.
This good news was especially welcome after pool revenues took a dive this last summer because the cool weather and rain kept people away. No financial numbers were available at press time regarding the shortfall. What Piekarz was able to say was that the total attendance this summer at the pool was 46,330 compared to 51,960 in 2013.
Although disappointing, Piekarz said the dip in attendance and therefore revenue is not the end of the world for the Park, since the board of directors understands that some summers will have worse weather than others and that they budget accordingly.