Next week, 1,500 Forest Park households will receive an online survey from the Park District of Forest Park asking them for input on what to do with the Roos property in particular and, in general, the direction the district should be taking in the next five years.

Why is the park district surveying Forest Park residents at this time? 

“First,” said Executive Director Larry Piekarz, “there are 15,000 taxpayers who support this park district, and they should have a say on where we are going. Second, we haven’t updated our master plan since 2010, and with the question of what to do with the Roos property needing to be answered, we thought it was a good time to ask for input from the people who will be using whatever facility we build.”

To assist the park board in the planning process, they hired Executive Service Corporation, which helped a working group that included Piekarz, board member Matt Walsh, Recreation Supervisor Rachell Entler and Assistant Director Steve Thomas create the survey. The park board will have the ultimate responsibility of analyzing the data from the survey and then using it to create a five-year master plan.

Piekarz explained that he hopes the survey will reveal what kind of activities village residents are looking for, and that will help the board both plan for future programming and guide them in designing whatever facility will be built on the recently acquired Roos property. 

“The people who will be paying the bill should have the say on where we are going,” he reiterated.

An incentive is being given to people to complete the survey online through Survey Monkey. Those who include their name on the survey will be included in a drawing and 10 Forest Park families will be given free pool passes for the 2016 season. People who wish to remain anonymous may do so but will not be included in the drawing.

Piekarz emphasized that the board is looking not only for ideas on what to do with the Roos property but also feedback regarding current programs. 

“We don’t want people to think this is just a Roos thing,” he said. “We want to improve what we already have — from customer service to the attitudes of our staff. If people have problems with our staff, we want to know. If people have problems with me, I want to know about it.”

If you don’t receive the link to Survey Monkey by email, it can be found on the park district’s website. For those who cannot go online, paper copies are available at the park administration building or at the Community Center. Completed surveys should be sent in by Feb. 26.

The Roos property became part of The Park’s future in 2010 when Forest Park voters passed a referendum to increase what is known as the limiting rate of the park district, a decision that authorized the park board to borrow the money to purchase the parcel of land at the corner of Circle and Harrison.

Four years later the district bought the parcel at a sheriff’s sale at a fraction of the cost they had anticipated paying, but they had to pay more than they planned on the environmental cleanup, so things evened out somewhat. What was thought to be a windfall in the form of a grant for $3 million to develop the Roos site, turned out to be a major bump in the road when the state of Illinois suspended $2.9 million in payments because of the ongoing budget impasse in Springfield. A grant for $1 million was received through state Senator Kimberly Lightford’s office but that too is frozen.

The district, however, was able to obtain a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for $166,000 for assessing the environmental impact of property.

“We are continuing to file our quarterly progress reports, so we remain eligible for the money,” said Piekarz, “when the state ever gets its system back running.”