Two of the smaller so-called “pocket parks” now being maintained by the Park District of Forest Park are scheduled for a facelift this summer, according to Executive Director Jackie Iovinelli, a pivot from an earlier plan that called for a major renovation of Reiger Park in 2022.

Iovinelli said the nearly $1 million project at Reiger has been put on hold as the park district awaits a response to an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant request with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). That agency sent a letter to applicants on March 18 stating that staff shortages and an overwhelming number of applicants meant no decision on awarding grants would be made until this fall. Park officials previously said a decision from IDNR on the OSLAD grant was expected this past January.

Iovinelli said if the park district moves forward with any work at Reiger, located at 1526 Circle Ave., it could jeopardize the $400,000 in matching funds the park is asking for from IDNR.

“We want to be working on these parks but we can’t, unfortunately, do anything with Reiger Park until we know what happens with the grant,” she said. “[If we begin work] we risk losing that opportunity and that’s a lot of money.”

Work on Reiger Park, the largest of the four pocket parks leased by the park district from the village, could begin in spring 2023.

The delay at Reiger, however, means that work can be done this spring and summer on two other pocket parks — Remembrance Park at 7341 Randolph St. and Popelka Park at the corner of Adams Street and Thomas Avenue. Those projects have now been moved to the front burner and could be completed this year.

Iovinelli said rehab at both parks will come at a significantly cheaper price tag than the $800,000 to $1 million estimated total for Reiger, and potential plans will be discussed with the park district board at its April 21 meeting. 

The work at Popelka and Remembrance will be done using existing operating capital funds and no additional grants or other revenue will be needed to complete the projects. Iovinelli said rehab at Popelka will likely include new playground equipment, and work at Remembrance could include new spray water features along with the removal of an existing structure. No final decisions have been made.

“We’re just trying to shift gears because the opportunity of $400,000 [from the OSLAD grant], we don’t want to give that up,” Iovinelli said. “It’s kind of taken out of our hands, and instead of just sitting on our hands we’re going to shift and we’re going to go to the other ones that need to have work done to them.”

The park district took over maintenance of four village pocket parks in July 2020 at a symbolic lease price of $1 per year.