“Who could better help us to develop a park than the National Park Service?” declared Ralph Di Febo. He was reacting to the news that the village was awarded a Technical Assistance Grant from the NPS to help make the Cultural Park a reality. The grant is coming from the agency’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) branch. 

It is not a monetary grant but a technical assistance grant to direct the Cultural Park Committee to possible funding sources and help them develop partnerships. RTCA is dedicated to connecting urban dwellers to natural resources, like rivers, trails and other conservation projects. 

The point person for RTCA is Mike Mencarini, who has been meeting with the committee and village officials. “We toured the whole parcel with Mike and Mayor Calderone,” Di Febo said. “The mayor said he didn’t want to see the property go to developers. I see the cultural park as a facelift for Forest Park, it will improve our image.”

Di Febo had first heard about the NPS program from Mayor Calderone when he was starting up his committee. He worked with a number of committee members to apply for the grant. Kim Rostello, who has a background in the field of recreation, helped draft the proposal. She is excited that it was accepted. 

“The skills of the RTCA are valuable. They came to the village council meeting and said the cultural park was definitely a worthwhile project. They sense the excitement of local residents and will jump on the bandwagon.”

Working with the Cultural Park Committee is tailor-made for the RTCA. They are seeking community groups who share their vision for preserving greenspace and giving residents greater access to nature. 

“It’s a perfect fit for Forest Park,” Rostello said of the cultural park. “It’s a community-builder and it has something for everyone.” 

The RTCA has attended meetings of the committee and watched their presentation for the project. “They can steer the ship,” Di Febo said. The agency is dedicated to providing assistance for projects that create networks of trails and parks, which is also the vision of the committee. 

Mayor Calderone is equally thrilled about the RTCA grant.

“We are super-excited to have the National Park Service at our disposal to aid us as we move forward with the project,” Calderone said. “Their expertise in this initiative will be invaluable and we are extremely grateful for this award.” 

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.