Forest Park’s park district has a knotty problem. We don’t envy them trying to find solutions.
On June 14, the situation at the Forest Park Aquatic Center spun out of control. Large crowds of youth were drawn to the Harrison Street pool via social media posts. On a steaming day, the pool was already at its capacity. At various points in the day, entry to the pool was closed down for reasons of safety and capacity because of those already inside.
That did not stop rowdy teens from pushing against entrances and later in the day going over security fences. They caused damage to the splash pad construction site. They intimidated and threatened lifeguards and others on staff. Police were called. Reinforcements from neighboring villages were also called as a tough attempt was made to contain the melee. Eventually the pool was closed early that day.
In response, the park district has implemented a policy barring single-day admissions for anyone outside of Forest Park. This will cost the district money. It will deny access to people just looking for a way to cool off and have some summer fun.
But honestly, we don’t have a better idea. Protecting season pass holders and locals is obviously vital. Protecting the pool itself, especially the expanding splash pad, which is under active construction, is necessary. And protecting the young people working this summer as lifeguards and concession workers is the most important thing.
These are edgy times and social media can be used to foment disruption. That’s what happened here and it is a damned shame.
Laurie Kokenes has been at the helm of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce for 30 years, an outstanding run for an organization that has been a vital connector and builder of Forest Park’s business community.
Kokenes has roots in both the Review and the Chamber going back to the days when her dad, the inestimable Bob Haeger, ran both. While Bob operated with a mix of charm and bluntness, Laurie Kokenes is always about building consensus, being inclusive and making things happen on time.
Never seeking the spotlight, promoting her board as primary, and always being there when it counted has made Laurie Kokenes a respected leader. She has been the right person for this Chamber and this village and we all owe her a debt of gratitude.