Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone said at Monday’s village council meeting that he is still waiting to meet with Mike Mencarini of the National Park Service regarding the proposed “Cultural Park” on the Altenheim property.

Calderone had said at the Jan. 8 village council meeting that he was hoping to meet with Mencarini before Monday’s meeting. Not only was he unable to schedule the meeting, but Calderone said Monday that he also was not in contact with Mencarini because he and other National Park Service employees were placed on furlough by the federal government shutdown. With the shutdown over, Calderone said he hopes to meet with Mencarini “in the very near future.” 

The Park Service in October awarded the village a technical assistance grant from the agency’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) branch to help officials create a cultural park for year-round use on village-owned property near the Altenheim Retirement Home at Madison and Van Buren streets.

The non-monetary grant will assist village officials in identifying possible funding sources and help them develop partnerships. RTCA is dedicated to connecting urban dwellers to natural resources, such as rivers, trails and other conservation projects. 

The village bought the 11-acre property for $3.6 million in 2001. Over the years, several ideas for development, including from Fenwick High School and the West Cook YMCA, were eventually scrapped. 

Calderone said an initial meeting, held in November, was designed to go over the administrative aspects of the grant.

The RTCA program is a community partnership program of the Park Service that provides technical assistance to local governments and community groups that are planning community-led outdoor recreation or natural resource conservation projects.

Mencarini also said RTCA program could assist the village by facilitating community outreach and engagement with local partners and stakeholders to identify specific opportunities and concerns for developing community green space at the project site.