It’s official! After months of friendly back-and-forth between attorneys representing the two entities, the Park District of Forest Park is leasing four village-owned pocket parks from the village of Forest Park.

One dollar. For 99 years.

During a Nov. 9 village council meeting, Mayor Rory Hoskins and the commissioners unanimously voted to approve the agreement, which transfers future upgrades and projects to the park district as well as day-to-day maintenance and repair. The lease begins on June 1, 2021.

In previous interviews with the Review, Executive Director Jackie Iovinelli said she and Village Administrator Tim Gillian had been discussing the possibility of the park district taking over the pocket parks ever since she began working for the district in Sept. 2018.

Iovinelli said the park district has the expertise to make necessary changes and upgrades and has access to, and knowledge of, grants such as the Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program.

Gillian has often said that the village isn’t in the business of park maintenance.

“We can’t update them the way they should be,” Gillian said in a previous interview. “The park district will be able to do them justice.”

Iovinelli spoke at the Nov. 9 village council meeting during which approval of the lease was given. She thanked the mayor and commissioners for working together to make it happen.

“It’s a no-brainer collaboration,” Iovinelli said, adding, “On behalf of our board, we want to thank you as a board for working together with us. I’d also like to give a special thanks to Tim [Gillian]. He was great to work with in getting this done.”

Next steps will be soliciting community input on what people want to see developed on the pocket-park land.

“For the life of me, as someone who’s been around a long time, I can’t tell you exactly why the village didn’t do this before,” Gillian said. “But it certainly passes the make-sense test.”

He went on to say that he is “very confident with Jackie’s leadership. … Every resident in town is going to be proud of the move that each of you took tonight. I am eagerly anticipating the first shovel turn at one of the parks.”

There are other parks around town, Gillian noted, such as the one on Circle Avenue and Lehmer Street, that are not included in the lease agreement because their ownership is unclear.

“I expect that over the next several months we will be able to determine ownership and figure out a way for the park to take over that property as well,” Gillian said.

Parks included in the lease are:

Reiger Park, 1526 Circle Ave.

Lathrop Park, 1138 Lathrop Ave.

Popelka Park, 501 Thomas Ave.

Remembrance Park, 7341 Randolph St.