The village of Brookfield has landed a $600,000 open space grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources that will help fund a major improvement to the southwest quadrant of Ehlert Park over the next couple of years.

On March 1, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced close to $60 million in grant funding for 118 park projects, including the one in Brookfield, to acquire and develop recreation spaces.

The grant will fund roughly half of a $1.26 million project that will include a new inclusive playground with a poured-in-place surface, a new picnic pavilion and baseball and soccer field upgrades.

“This section of Ehlert Park has not been touched in well over 20 years,” said Assistant Village Manager Stevie Ferrari, who submitted the grant application to the IDNR last fall when she was recreation director. “The inclusive playground is not something any of our parks provide currently, except for some accessible swings. By doing this, we’re able to equitably update village amenities for the community and provide more access for outdoor recreation.”

Improvements proposed for the southwest quadrant of Ehlert Park in Brookfield include ball field upgrades, a new picnic pavilion and pathways, game tables, a renovated Kesman Memorial Garden and a new accessible playground with a poured-in-place surface and sensory elements to make it inclusive. (Courtesy Village of Riverside)

It may take some time before the project breaks ground at Ehlert Park, with work starting later in 2023 at the earliest, possibly in 2024. The village first must receive an executed grant agreement from the state, which could take months.

Last summer, the village got word the state was releasing $200,000 earmarked in the 2019 Illinois capital budget for the improvement of the Ehlert Park tennis courts. Work on those improvements was supposed to take place last fall but delays in getting the executed grant agreement pushed that work into 2023.

According to Ferrari, the Brookfield Village Board is expected to award a construction contract for the tennis court improvements at their March 13 meeting, with work starting once the weather permits.

The village board is also likely to seek requests for proposal from landscape architecture firms for the final design of the improvements for the southwest quadrant of Ehlert Park. 

While the conceptual plan submitted with the grant application last fall won’t change, Ferrari said, some of the finer details such as playground equipment and landscaping may change.

In addition to the inclusive playground, pavilion and ball field improvement, the project will also include installation of accessible trail connections, ping pong and chessboard tables and landscaping.

The work also includes a renovation of the Kesman Memorial Garden, which was established in 1999. The footprint of the garden will change, Ferrari said, but the existing brick pavers will be preserved. The garden will be relandscaped with native plant species.

“It’s a really exciting project,” Ferrari said. “Ehlert Park has been pieced out as far as work plans go.”