Brookfield certainly has a knack for obtaining grants for its park improvement projects. That has been a real feather in the cap of the present management team, which has won three open-space grants from the state since 2006, totaling more than $1 million.
What that money has purchased can be seen at Jaycee/Ehlert Park on the south side of the village. The improvements are part of a larger plan to completely make over that park. Whether the final vision will ever come to fruition is unknown — it’ll take another $1 million or more to make that happen.
In the meantime, the village has turned its attention to Kiwanis Park, which is notable for its finely manicured ball fields and peaceful oak savanna. The rest of the park’s amenities have seen better days, including the pavilion, bandstand and playground equipment.
But there’s so much more that could be done with Kiwanis Park.
Prior to the election, Kit Ketchmark said if he had one pet project, it was Kiwanis Park. One of the things he envisioned was a plan to actively connect the park with the area near Salt Creek, to create a Graue Mill-type setting that would be attractive not just to residents but visitors as well.
That’s pretty ambitious, and we have no idea what it would take to make that vision a reality. We like the idea of at least talking about it, but we want more than just the board of trustees and village management involved in the discussion.
While the park improvements undertaken in recent years have been great, they’ve been created in-house, without any, or very little, input from residents or advisory commissions like the Parks and Recreation Commission, Beautification Commission, Conservation Commission or Special Events Commission.
Each of those groups could have something valuable to add to the discussion. Involving lots of people in such a discussion now will inevitably bring disagreements over priorities or specific future improvements.
That’s OK. A more open discussion could equally provide more ideas and goals that have widespread support. A concerted planning effort could also lead to a comprehensive plan for Kiwanis Park that could be used to apply for future grants.
Whether this particular grant has been given specifically for the plan outlined in the village’s application last summer, there is much more to do at Kiwanis Park. With a new administration in place — well, more or less — there’s an opportunity here to step back and alter the way park improvement planning has been done in the past eight years.
For us, the key is involving valuable voices in a discussion from which they have previously been shut out.
But by all means, a focus on park improvements, especially ones funded by state and federal grants, should continue. Perhaps a global discussion about park improvements — not just for Kiwanis and Ehlert — would be a beneficial result of a new approach to the subject.
The several smaller playgrounds in the village need attention, too, and not just when it’s urgent.