We’re sentimentalists, so we like the park district’s decision to christen its new facility the Roos Recreation Center. It’s a natural since it’s being built on the historic site of the Roos Cedar Chest factory at Circle and Harrison. And as Rachel Entler, the park district recreation supervisor who doubles as a village council member, said, “Everyone we know of always says, ‘What’s going on at the Roos?'”

However, we would note that the park district is somewhat challenged in the area of naming things. That would explain why the main park is named “The Park.” Presumably some long-dead folks, likely Italian or German, used to say, “What’s going on at the park?” and it sort of stuck.

Other towns come up with aspirational names for things. Millennium Park in Chicago; The Scoville Institute in Oak Park, though they did knock it down and rename it the Oak Park Public Library; or they sell off the naming rights for big bucks and we wind up with the cringeworthy Guaranteed Rate Field or Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Even now with fresh naming opportunities looming, Forest Park is gravitating toward Culture Park for its entirely fresh and bold concept for the Altenheim property. Not exactly lyrical. Not even a mini-Ravinia in the naming department.

If you are not going toward aspirational, lucrative or poetic, we’d long ago have   thought that a town as centered on its multi-generation families would do more than place honorary street signs up to remember the Tricocis, the Calderones, the Popelkas. In fact, in the office pool we were pulling for the rec center to be named for Lorraine Popelka, the longtime mayor and council member whose real power base was built on decades of teaching Forest Park runts to swim at the pool. There is still time to name the blandly labeled Aquatic Park for Ms. Popelka.

We suppose we should just be happy with the Roos Recreation Center. It’s better than The Gym/Track.

Flat, the new up

School enrollment at Forest Park’s District 91 schools cannot go up until it stops going down. And that milestone event may have been accomplished this fall. After a decade of disturbing declines, the student population at the public elementary schools has leveled off at 820 students. 

Superintendent Louis Cavallo echoes the hopes of all when he says, “We’re hoping this is the start of a trend upward.”

Cavallo has pointed to earlier enrollment studies and the U.S. Census to explain the steady declines in student numbers over the years. With enrollments rising in recent years in neighboring communities, we believe there is more complexity in this story. 

We are hopeful that new energy and optimism at Proviso East and PMSA will reduce anxiety about public schools generally among Forest Park families. Our elementary schools are strong and deserve our support.