Forest Park residents got a chance to weigh in on plans to improve and renovate Reiger Park, 1526 Circle Ave., during an Aug. 19 open house.

In the summer of 2020, Forest Park’s village government leased the village-owned pocket parks, including Reiger, to the Park District of Forest Park for a symbolic $1 a year for 99 years. As part of the deal, the park district took over responsibility for managing and improving the parks. It plans to spend $800,000 on Reiger improvements, and it’s applying for the state Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant to cover half the cost, with the rest coming from the park district’s existing capital funds. 

During the open house, which was held at the park, residents got to see two concepts – the more “urban-themed” Option 1 and the more “nature-themed” Option 2. Residents were invited to share what features they like and suggest their own ideas. If the park district gets the grant, it expects to start the renovations in the summer-fall of 2022. 

The park district hired Naperville-based Hitchcock Design Group to develop the concepts. Senior Associate Bridget Deatrick said that, while the display boards included examples, this won’t necessarily be what the features would look like – that part will be decided later in the process. Residents were invited to put stickers next to the features they liked. Deatrick said the final concept would combine the features from both options “to make the best plan.”

Both options call for two entrances – one roughly where the current west entrance is and one at the northeast corner of the lot. The rest of the park would be fenced off. Both options would have berms and other features to reduce flooding. 

Option 1 tilts the park layout, with the “pedestrian spine” path stretching between the two entrances and another path reaching from the west entrance toward the northeastern corner. The playground would be in the resulting triangular shape, while a soccer field would be located at the southwestern portion of the park. It would have a painted-on outdoor game feature such as a chess board or a four square, and there would be outdoor “game stations” such as foosball tables. A building or a shade structure would be located north of the playground. 

Option 2 maintains a similar layout to the current set-up, the playground in the northern half and a more open field in the southern half. Unlike Option 1, it doesn’t explicitly include a soccer field, but Hitchcock officials indicated that there is enough room to accommodate a smaller, U6 size field for children’s games. It calls for a “water play” feature – which, Deatrick said, would be the playground equipment that “channels water” rather than a water fountain or a slash pad – directly south of the playground. The south edge of the park would have a stage feature that can be used for neighborhood get-togethers and events.

The OSLAD grant applications are due Sept. 1, and winners are expected to be announced in early January 2022. Deatrick said that the final design will be developed in the spring of 2022. 

Jackie Iovinelli, park district executive director, said Reiger Park “needs a lot of love,” so they are looking forward to “making something that the community can appreciate and enjoy.”

“This is a way for the neighbors to have a nice, safe place to relax and enjoy, and [do] whatever makes them happy,” she said.

The residents who spoke to the Review all said they preferred Option 2. Emily Pfaff said she preferred it because she liked nature, and she appreciated the shade structures.

“I also like the idea of people being able to use the space for birthdays and [park district events],” she said.

Edward Dzialo said he was glad that the park was getting some revamp, as did resident Anna Petrick.

“I’m just really excited to have this park revamped, because it’s definitively in need of some repairs,” she said.

Mayor Rory Hoskins and Jessica Voogd, the village’s commissioner of public property, attended the event. Neither expressed preferences for any particular design, saying only that they looked forward to the improvements.

“It’s really exciting, and it’s great to see this happening in the community,” Voogd said.”

“I’m glad that the park district wants to improve the park,” Hoskins said. “The village will help however we can.”