The Park District of Forest Park received a $400,000 Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) state grant on July 8, allowing it to restart the long-delayed Reiger Park renovations.
While the park district originally hoped to complete the renovations at Reiger Park, 16th Street and Circle, this summer and fall, the state delays in processing grant applications left the project in limbo. Now that the funds are available, the park district will finalize the design, with the construction expected to start in the spring of 2023. Jackie Iovinelli, park district executive director, told the Review that there will be “plenty of time” for residents to give input on the final design.
OSLAD grants are issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to help municipalities and park districts renovate their parks and facilities. Each grant can fund up to 50% of the project costs, and the grant can’t be more than $400,000. It is funded through a portion of Real Estate Transfer Tax revenue. Iovinelli said that the funding will cover a little less than a half of the project’s $881,400 budget, with the park district covering the rest out of its capital funds.
In a March 18 letter to the applicants, IDNR indicated that, because of staff shortages in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, it didn’t expect to be able to announce grant awardees until fall. Iovinelli told the Review at the time that any work on the project would jeopardize the grant, so the park district shifted gears to make improvements on two other pocket parks – Remembrance Park, 7341 Randolph St., and Popelka Park, 501 Thomas Ave. – which it could cover with its own funds.
IDNR ended up issuing a total of $30.3 million in OSLAD grants for 87 projects. The Reiger Park project is the only project located in the west suburbs.
In 2020, the Village of Forest Park leased four pocket parks, including Reiger Park, 1526 Circle Ave., to the park district for a symbolic $1 a year, with the park district taking over responsibility for improving and maintaining them. In Aug. 19, 2021, Naperville-based Hitchcock Design Group shared two prospective improvement concepts for Reiger – the “urban-themed” Option 1 and the more “nature-themed” Option 2. The majority of the residents who spoke to the Review at the time said they preferred the latter.
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, 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.
Hitchcock officials told the Review at the time that the final design wouldn’t necessarily be one or the other – depending on the feedback they get, they could incorporate features from both.
In a statement to the media, Iovinelli said the park district was glad to finally get the funds.
“We want to thank our residents for their input and support during this process,” she stated. “We would also like to thank our Representatives in the Illinois General Assembly for protecting these dedicated funds and for continuing to make the OSLAD Grant program one of its top priorities. We are also very grateful to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for their ongoing efforts and commitment to ensuring these dedicated matching grant funds are awarded for much-needed park improvement projects that benefit our community.”