Plans are underway for the Park District of Forest Park to lease four of the village-owned pocket parks for $1 annually, an agreement that will bring the park district’s expertise, resources and grant writing skills to renovate the spaces.
Currently, an attorney is drawing up the lease for four of the village parks: Circle Avenue and 16th Street; Circle Avenue and Lehmer Street; Thomas Avenue and Adams Street; and the tot lot on Lathrop north of Roosevelt Road.
These parks, thought often to be under the purview of the park district, have been overseen and maintained by the village government. But that’s going to change.
“It’s unusual for a community with a park district to have village-run parks,” said Jackie Iovinelli, executive director of the park district of Forest Park. She said she and Village Administrator Tim Gillian had been tossing the idea around practically since she began her position nearly two years ago, and both decided that now the time is right.
The state of Illinois included Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant funds in this year’s budget, and the park district plans to apply for a grant to renovate the park at Circle Avenue and 16th Street, according to Iovinelli.
“We said, ‘Let’s start with the biggest first,'” said Iovinelli. “The possibilities for that space are endless.” Iovinelli said the park district plans to seek community input on what they’d like to see in the space. As soon as they have a better sense of the timing of the grants, they’ll decide on a formal process for resident suggestions.
“We’d like to invite the residents to the park and take a look at it as a blank slate to see what we can create,” said Iovinelli.
“When people move to a new village, they look at the school district, and they look next at the parks,” said Iovinelli. “At the park district, we have the expertise to make changes and really beautify the community.”
Gillian agreed. “[The village] can’t update them the way they should be,” said Gillian. “The park district will be able to do them justice.”
Iovinelli said the park district is working hand-in-hand with the village on the transition, and village maintenance staff will finish out the season. Park district maintenance probably won’t begin until spring. The lease from the village will be for the maximum allowed duration: 99 years.