Officials from the Cook County Forest Preserve District and Brookfield Zoo have turned thumbs down to a request by Riverside Brookfield High School for an easement for parking on Forest Preserve owned property just north of high school. RBHS had hoped to pave over a fire lane and put in 34 angled parking spaces just north of the school on a field owned by the Forest Preserve District, but used by the school. School officials had asked for the easement as a way of reducing the size of a controversial proposed parking lot alongside Hollywood Avenue.

But when District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis met with Forest Preserve District and zoo officials on Aug. 11 he was told that the easement will not be granted. 

Despite rejecting the proposed easement Skinkis said that county officials are still willing to work with RBHS as the school looks for ways to expand parking. 

“Right now it looks as if the easement along the north side of the school that was originally requested is off the table,” Skinkis said after the meeting. “However I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to work out a solution maybe in some other areas or some usage agreement. I thought it was a positive meeting in that it looked like the Forest Preserve (District) and the zoo are still trying to work with the school to find a solution. All three parties were at the table trying to reach a resolution.”

Skinkis said that the zoo and county are willing to consider an idea that he has presented to them. Under Skinkis’s proposal District 208 would contribute money to allow the zoo to pave over and line a gravel parking area on zoo property which is now underutilized. In return the zoo and county would give RBHS use of the current faculty parking lot on weekends and in the summer. RBHS rents the faculty parking from the zoo for $18,000 a year. The zoo uses the lot extensively on weekends and during the summer closing off its accessibility to those who just want to visit RBHS.

Skinkis said that he hopes to get a definitive answer from the Forest Preserve District about this proposal in a month or so.

“At this time there has been no decision,” Skinkis said. “The zoo and the Forest Preserve (District) are going to check into a couple things, but I walked away from the meeting very optimistic and I felt like the zoo and the Forest Preserve (District) are trying to work with the high school to solve this problem.”

On Aug. 26 the school board will hold a meeting of the superintendent’s facility advisory committee. At this meeting the district’s architect will give an update about an ambitious plan for work around the RBHS campus and answer questions.  

After the meeting of the facilities advisory committee, where public input is expected, the school board will hold a special meeting where it is expected to approve a memo of understanding with the architects. According to a draft of the proposed memo of understanding posted on the district’s web site the scope of work expected to be approved could cost from between $7.6 million and $8.3 million. 

The biggest ticket item is more than $2 million for demolishing Shuey Stadium and constructing replacement locker rooms and storage buildings. 

Shuey Stadium is badly decaying. This summer the school has put up netting to catch falling concrete from the underpinnings of the stadium. New bleachers for the both the home and visitor sides are to be constructed at a projected cost of $625,000.

Other big ticket items planned include replacement of the existing synthetic turf on the football field for $500,000, $400,000 for roof replacements on some parts of the high school that did not get new roofs during the recent renovation, and $640,000 for new tennis courts at a location to be determined. 

RB officials have proposed replacing the existing tennis courts with a parking lot and building new tennis courts in North Riverside.

The new parking lot is estimated to cost $200,000, but that does not include an additional $300,000 allowance for storm water retention for the parking lot.

Resurfacing the current six lane track would cost $175,000 while building a new seven lane track is estimated to cost about $700,000.

Skinkis said the school board needs to make some decisions and get the process started so that much of the work can be done next summer. The school board cannot let the parking lot decision hold the other projects hostage, Skinkis told the board.

“We need to get the ball rolling in regard to the other projects,” Skinkis said. “We don’t want to let one or two projects hold up the other eight.”