Like almost all suburbs very close to the border of the city of Chicago, Brookfield at its inception more or less was a vast prairie, dotted by houses in the subdivisions that had been improved early on. Even through World War II, and even decades after, there were large tracts of undeveloped land.
In short, “open space” planning was kind of pointless. There was open land all over for kids to explore, where they could play ball and ride their bikes over trails worn through the decades by the tires of a legion of bikes.
Even though the land wasn’t developed and served unofficially as public land, however, it wasn’t public. Someone owned it. And when that someone wanted to cash in — the post-war housing shortage made that easy to do — the vacant land gradually disappeared. Open spaces in Brookfield, apart from Kiwanis Park (officially purchased by the village only in the mid-1950s) and Jaycee/Ehlert Park (which was expanded in this century and is the only park in town to have a private house right in the middle of it) are dots on the map. A couple of them are simply residential lots converted into mini-parks.
So what Brookfield has in terms of open space is incredibly valuable to its residents and deserves a meaningful plan it can implement in the future.
During the past week, Brookfield officials invited members of five advisory committees to a workshop to kick around ideas for open space planning. On Monday, the village board invited residents to have a go at letting officials know what they think is important moving forward.
But, in all, village government and the consultant it has hired to update Brookfield’s open space plan have heard from fewer than 50 people out of the 18,000 or so who live in Brookfield.
That’s not enough. Every summer, Brookfield’s parks are packed with baseball players, soccer players, families and organizations, special events and more.
Village leaders, having given the community two opportunities to provide input on this matter, appear ready to move the open space planning process along. However, we’d agree with trustees Brian Oberhauser and Michelle Ryan that the village could do a bit more outreach to the community to obtain additional input via the village’s website.
The village sends out messages regarding parking restrictions during snow events and highlights those kinds of things on its website. We don’t see any reason why the village couldn’t do more to emphasize the open space planning effort and make it easy for residents to gain additional context and provide input via the website.
Clearly, through Brookfield’s history of more than a century, comprehensive open space planning hasn’t been a priority. Now that the village is actively seeking to amend its plan for the future, it should do what it can to get the entire village involved.
It’s been more than a decade since this plan was last updated. Waiting a few more weeks to gain additional input from residents won’t slow that effort down any more than it has already.