Mayor to meet with Park Service advisor soon

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By Robert J. Lifka

Contributing Reporter

Following an initial meeting in November, Mayor Anthony Calderone said he hopes to meet with a representative of the National Park Service this month regarding the proposed "Cultural Park" on the Altenheim property.

"I'm waiting to meet with Mike [Mencarini] of the National Park Service," he said at Monday's village council meeting. "I hope to have a more comprehensive report at the next village council meeting."

The Park Service in October awarded the village a technical assistance grant from the agency's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) branch to help officials create a cultural park for year-round use on village-owned property near the Altenheim Retirement Home at Madison and Van Buren streets.

The non-monetary grant will assist village officials in identifying possible funding sources and help them develop partnerships. RTCA is dedicated to connecting urban dwellers to natural resources, such as rivers, trails and other conservation projects. 

The village bought the 11-acre property for $3.6 million in 2001, and over the years several ideas for development, including from Fenwick High School and the West Cook YMCA, were eventually scrapped. 

Calderone said the initial meeting, held Nov. 28, was designed to go over the administrative aspects of the grant.

Mencarini concurred, noting they discussed the type of assistance that Forest Park requested in its application and how the RTCA program could best be a resource.

"With this being the very first meeting, I am working on finalizing a timeline and proposed scope for the grant which will focus on community engagement and the Park Service hosting and facilitating broad-based community input," Calderone said in December.

The RTCA program is a community partnership program of the Park Service that provides technical assistance to local governments and community groups that are planning community-led outdoor recreation or natural resource conservation projects.

"We typically assist local partners with project management, community outreach and engagement, partnership development and meeting facilitation, and trail and green space planning," Mencarini said.

He also said RTCA program could assist the village by facilitating community outreach and engagement with local partners and stakeholders to identify specific opportunities and concerns for developing community green space at the project site.

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