Riverside Village President Joseph Ballerine suggested Turtle Park (above) as a location where the village might start with its efforts to improve parks over the next decade. Officials intend to survey residents for input and develop a master plan. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

Riverside appears poised to raise its tax levy for special recreation later this year as local officials begin reviewing and planning for major capital investments in parks over the next decade.

Trustees at their meeting on Aug. 5 indicated they’d support raising the special recreation levy by $5.30 per $100,000 of property market value, an action that would result in the owner of a home valued at $400,000 seeing the levy for special recreation go up by about $21 annually.

“I think we should seriously consider levying the [special recreation] funds to do nothing more than to at least get one of our parks ADA-approved or make it easier for our  ADA residents to use the park,” said Village President Joseph Ballerine.

Ballerine suggested that Turtle Park, which is located in the middle of the Long Common south of Big Ball Park, would be a good park to start with since it’s so popular with families who have small children.

No actual plans for making over any of Riverside’s parks have been drawn up, but increasing the special recreation tax levy would set those wheels into motion. 

Among the initiatives the levy increase would help fund is a comprehensive park master plan tentatively scheduled for 2024 and preceded in 2022 and 2023, respectively, with a community survey to get input on what Riverside residents feel is needed in local parks and a park/facility/program analysis.

“Any survey should be part of the preparation for the master plan,” said Trustee Doug Pollock. “There are a tremendous number of new families moving into town, and we need to find out what their needs are and try to meet those needs.”

Trustees generally also favored replacing the wood mulch playground surfaces in village parks with poured-in-place rubber surfaces that are more accessible. Trustee Aberdeen Marsh-Ozga, who wanted more information related to health safety issues for poured-in-place surfaces, was the only trustee present who raised an objection to the switch.

A tentative timeline for installing the poured-in-place surfaces, which was included in the Aug. 5 village board meeting packet, shows that Turtle Park, which is also the village’s smallest playground, would be first on the list to get such a surface in 2022.

The tentative schedule for parks capital projects also includes an ambitious makeover of Harrington Park, which is located at South Delaplaine Road and Robinson Court. The village would seek an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant to help fund such a large project, which is estimated at about $680,000, a figure arrived at by officials looking at a similarly sized project under way at Candy Cane Park in Brookfield.

Marsh-Ozga, who formerly served on the Riverside Preservation Commission and is a member of the Frederick Law Olmsted Society, urged officials to get the input of the Riverside Landscape Advisory Commission for any improvement initiatives.

“I would think there should be a collaboration between the Parks and Rec Department and the Landscape Advisory Commission on this given that Olmsted designed the village of parks, so it should not be done in isolation and based solely on a survey of residents’ recreational desires,” she said. “There has to be that design input as well, and if that was part of the process I’d be in favor of that.”

But, Ballerine was skeptical of looping the LAC into decisions on park design, saying that is the purview of the Parks and Recreation Board, though members of those groups could certainly voice opinions on decisions being made about park improvements.

In all, the parks and recreation capital plan from 2022-31 includes nearly $2 million in improvements, ranging from park playground surface upgrades and equipment replacement to fencing, renovations at the Scout Cabin and water tower facility, plantings, vehicle replacement and computer hardware and software purchases.