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

The Park District of Forest Park received a long-awaited Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) state grant to renovate Remembrance Park, 7341 Randolph St.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) grants can be used 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 or half of the project costs, whichever is lower. 

The park district received $424,200, enough to pay for half of the $848,400 budgeted for the project. Jackie Iovinelli, park district executive director, said since OSLAD projects must follow timetables and meet benchmarks set by the state, she couldn’t speak to the project timeline, but the district must finish it up within two years of receiving the grant. 

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. The remaining four, including Remembrance Park, have been leased to the park district for a symbolic $1 a year, with the park district responsible for maintaining and improving them.

Since 2021, the park district has been working with Naperville-based Hitchcock Design Group to figure out how to spruce up and improve the parks it leases. 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 court 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 incorporated into it.

The park features memorials that 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 told the Review that the memorials won’t be affected by the renovations.

While the park district applied for the $600,000 maximum, with the budget estimated to be around $850,000, they didn’t expect to get the full amount. In 2022, it received a $400,000 OSLAD grant for improvements at Reiger Park, another of the pocket parks.  Reiger Park is at 1526 Circle Ave.

The state announced the winners on March 1. This year, it gave around $60 million in OSLAD funding to park districts and municipalities throughout Illinois. 

In a statement to the media, IDNR Director Natalie Phelps Finnie touted the grants as an investment in residents’ well-being. 

“An investment in the outdoors is an investment in the health and well-being of the people of Illinois,” she said. “We know that 83% of Illinoisans consider access to outdoor recreational opportunities important for them and their families. We also know that getting outside leads to better overall health.”