Illustration by Sky Hatter

With Gov. Bruce Rauner’s freeze on state grants for parks expected to continue for the foreseeable future, it may be some time before Brookfield has a chance to improve Candy Cane Park on the village’s north end.

However, plans for those improvements continue to take shape and first draft of a new layout for the park was unveiled June 8 at the Brookfield Village Board’s committee of the whole meeting.

The draft plan, created by Hitchcock Design Group, was designed based on input from the public and Brookfield officials gathered from a pair of open meetings (one of them at the park itself) and an online survey.

The plan contemplates changing the layout of Candy Cane Park by opening up the north side of the park and clustering playground areas and sports courts on the south side.

Meanwhile, the plan moves the T-ball field to the northeast corner of the park, leaving the northwest corner a passive park area. In the southeast corner, the plan shows playground equipment, swings, a 20-by-20-foot shelter structure and potential areas for shuffleboard and bocce.

In the southwest corner are a tennis court and basketball court. An undulating, landscaped bioswale is shown along the western edge of the park to help with drainage. The plan also calls for planting more than four dozen shade and ornamental trees. 

After Ehlert and Kiwanis parks, Candy Cane Park is the largest park in Brookfield and the only public park north of 31st Street. It was renovated last around the year 2000. The park sits between 28th and 29th streets at Park Avenue.

But the plan, which would run an estimated $660,000, drew a mixed response from residents and elected officials, who weren’t fond of the proposed new layout and some new elements, such as a full-size basketball court.

“We originally had two full basketball courts,” said Marie Smuda, who has lived on 29th Street across the street from the park since 1986. “They were removed when this park was redone … back in the late ’90s or early 2000s. By having those full courts, we had a lot of problems there. You had many, many people coming in from other suburbs and other areas, who were taking over the courts and monopolizing them for hours and hours.”

Smuda also said the basketball players precluded local residents from enjoying the park.

Scott Richardson, who also lives on 29th Street, agreed that the basketball court should be eliminated and suggested replacing it with a second tennis court and a half-court basketball area.

Brian Pencak, who lives about a block away from the park, also favored eliminating the basketball court in favor of a volleyball court. He said he favored low-level lighting along crushed gravel footpaths in the park (the plan calls for concrete walkways), more picnic benches, and using recycled rubber instead of woodchips in the playground area.

Steve Konters, a principal at Hitchcock Design group, said the basketball court was included because it was something Brookfield generally lacked in its public parks and that including it would score the village points when it seeks a grant to help fund the improvements. 

Smuda and another resident near the park, Chris Valadez, favored keeping the present park layout, which flips the playground area for smaller children and the T-ball field. Placing the playground area in the northeast corner of the park allows smaller kids to be separated from older kids and adults who will use the sports courts.

Village President Kit Ketchmark and trustees Michael Garvey and Ryan Evans also questioned flipping the T-ball and playground areas in Hitchcock’s draft plan.

Officials initially were shooting for a July 1 deadline for a working design because that should have been the deadline for submitting applications to obtain an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant.

Because there’s likely to be no new state operating budget in place by July 1, the grant process has been suspended. However, officials still want to complete the preliminary design process so that once the grant process opens again, Brookfield will be ready to submit an application immediately.

Village Manager Keith Sbiral said Hitchcock Design group would come back to the village board with a refinement of the draft design later in June or in early July. 

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