Rendering of planned improvements for Remembrance Park. (Park District of Forest Park)

Remembrance Park, the small pocket park on Randolph Street, could get a major upgrade including a new playground, splash pads and a bocce ball court. That’s if the Park District of Forest Park is successful in its application for a $600,000 state grant aimed at improving local parks.

Park commissioners voted unanimously Sept. 15 to apply for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant to fund a little over 70% of the costs of improving the park at 7341 Randolph St. 

Remembrance Park is one of four “pocket parks” the village government leases to the park district for a symbolic $1 a year, and the only one of the four that’s located north of the Eisenhower Expressway. As part of the lease, the park district took over responsibility for maintaining and improving the small parks. 

Forest Park has six pocket parks, with the village retaining control of two of them — Veterans Park, 631 Circle Ave., and the village dog park at 632 Circle Ave. Since 2021, the park district has been working with Naperville-based Hitchcock Design Group to figure out how to spruce up and improve the other four parks.

According to the preliminary design rendering posted on the park district website, Remembrance Park will get a new playground with a new play structure and a bocce ball pole on the west end, new swings in the middle and two new splash pads at the east end. The current wood chips would give way to a pour-in-place rubber surfacing with a large American flag painted over it. 

Jackie Iovinelli, park district director, emphasized to the Review that they will maintain the existing memorials. The plan shows a new “memorial walk” with the relocated monuments. 

The memorials honor Forest Park police and firefighters who have died in the line of duty and Richard E. Drane, a former police chief. There is also a memorial for those impacted by suicide.

Iovinelli said the project is expected to cost “approximately $850,000.”

The director told park commissioners that, if they get the grant, they will need to keep the features listed in the applications, but they would still be free to add other features. She said that, if the grant is secured, they would have a public meeting to give residents a chance to suggest ideas for the final concept.

OSLAD grants pay for property acquisition for new parks, as well as for renovations and redevelopment of existing parks. The renovation projects can get up to $600,000, and Iovinelli told the Review that the park district is going for the full amount. 

On July 8, the park district received a $400,000 OSLAD grant to fund planned  renovations of another pocket park, Reiger Park at 1526 Circle Ave. The construction work on that project is expected to start in the spring of 2023.

Iovinelli told the park commissioners that, as of Sept. 14, their grant application for Remembrance Park was “about 80%” complete, and they expect to be able to submit it in time for the Sept. 30 deadline. 

“We are hoping to hear [if we got the grant] by the end of this year,” Iovinelli told the Review. “If that is the case, we should begin construction Fall 2023.”