Some Forest Park residents may be feeling a little impatient on hearing that the park district is planning on conducting yet another survey regarding what to do with the Roos property acquired a few years ago, and I know some of my neighbors are wondering why nothing is happening with the Altenheim property.
In the case of those two properties which are both green — well, the Roos Property soon will be — I think Rheinie had it right when he advised, “Measure twice, cut once.” Rheinie was the carpenter my parents hired when I was 5 years old to build the house on MacArthur Drive where I grew up. The old bachelor was something of a curmudgeon and not easy to work with, but he was really good at his craft and took pride in his work.
Measure twice, cut once. Even in those days, lumber was a precious commodity. Cutting a board half an inch short meant that carelessness had wasted a valuable resource. Better to take your time and get it right than to end up with something that won’t last. When he finished building the house, Rheinie boasted, “She’s built so solid she could withstand a tornado.”
The name of our village has the word “forest” in it and there was a lot of green space in this area when the Potawatomis lived here, but not anymore. I’m so grateful for the leaders who preserved the green space in our national park system and for the folks who were steadfast in keeping the Chicago lakefront green and open to everyone.
So in the case of the precious green space we are stewards of, through the park district and the village, I’d rather measure twice, even if it takes a while, and get it right than pull the trigger before taking good aim — to mix metaphors poorly — and do some irreparable damage.
I don’t have any brilliant ideas regarding how to use those two properties, and apparently no one else does either. If I unleash my imagination and let it run wild, I can picture restoring that grand old Altenheim building and turning it into a high-end bed & breakfast facility, which would cater to the tourists who will be flocking to a destination called Forest Park to enjoy the history and natural beauty of our cemeteries, the big city access, the small town charm, and the unique shops on Madison Street.
Thousands of people come to Oak Park to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright sites. Why not give them a first-class place to stay in a location we’ve kept green. Imagine their delight as the drive through the grove to the “Harry Potter-looking” building we call The Altenheim. Residents from Oak Park and River Forest already prefer Madison Street for dining to anything in their own villages. Why not partner with our two neighbors and promote OP-RF-FP as a region?
It’s one thing to let my imagine run wild, of course, and another thing to come up with a well-thought-out business plan that could convince investors to put up the money to make it happen. And maybe my fantasies aren’t doable. My point is that in measuring twice before acting, we have the opportunity to think big and plan for the long term. We have a chance to imagine a Forest Park 50 years from now in which our grandchildren would like to live.
Some issues do require immediate attention. If you are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath and vomiting, you don’t measure twice. You call 911 right now. But if you acknowledge that you are 30 pounds overweight, you don’t want to impulsively jump from one magic non-prescription supplement to another with the illusion that there is an instant solution to weight loss. In that case you measure twice, get support, make a reasonable plan and create a long-haul program to achieve your goal.
Last Thursday, I was thankful hearing about the two wonderful opportunities we as a community have in the Roos and Altenheim properties. Let’s be patient and allow the process to work its way through — so that when we finally cut a deal, we will get it right.