Brookfield has had lots of success getting grant funding to improve its parks – specifically Ehlert Park – in recent years. In addition to a couple of Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grants, the village also tapped into funds from Lyons Township and the state of Illinois.
On Monday, village trustees OK’d another stab at an OSLAD grant, this time for Kiwanis Park, which could really use the face-lift. But we’d like for village officials to pause a bit here and think about what exactly is being proposed and make sure it’s something they actually want to do.
The linchpin of the plan is replacing the old bandstand with a covered bandshell. That’s a really good idea and something no one would argue against. The bandstand has needed to be looked at for a long time, and this is the perfect opportunity to do it.
But the rest of the improvements? Well, because the plan was put together in a hurry, it lacks a cohesiveness that would come with a little study and input from others. Do people really still play horseshoes? And disc golf, is there really a groundswell of support for plunking down concrete pads in what is now a nice wooded area south of the oak savanna to put six holes of disc golf there?
The walking path and fitness stations seem to be a nice addition, but apart from that and the band shell, we’re not sure what $500,000 is buying. There is older playground equipment and a basketball court that could sure use upgrading, but those things aren’t in the phase-one plan.
How about a newer concession stand near Overholt Field and upgraded pitcher warm-up areas? There’s a batting cage contemplated for the future. Why not now? The Little League-centric amenities would certainly get more use than horseshoes and disc golf, as would a renovated basketball court.
And, as Trustee Kit Ketchmark remarked on Monday, what about the walking paths in the oak savanna? They could sure use improvement but aren’t in the master plan at all.
The trouble with this plan, while it has its good points, is that it hasn’t asked enough questions and hasn’t sought the input of the people who use the park every day.
The recreation commission and the special events commission weren’t consulted on this plan, because there wasn’t time to do it. It’s incredible that their input wouldn’t have been sought. Of course, it would have slowed down the process and likely have scotched the application.
But we’re not necessarily buying the argument that if Brookfield doesn’t act now, it will have to go it alone in the future. There will be other OSLAD opportunities in the future, and a well-considered master plan for Kiwanis Park would certainly have just as good a chance as the one hastily assembled here.
In the end the village will be spending $500,000 – $250,000 of its own – on this project. Is it really what Brookfielders want? We’re not sure village officials really know the answer to that question.