Stop talk, start action

Opinion

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Brookfield has a unique relationship with its parks. Whether it's because Brookfield has claimed park land along the way as it became available or for some other reason, the village has an almost informal, at times tentative, relationship with the parks.

This is especially true at the village's two biggest parks?"Kiwanis Park and Jaycee Ehlert Park?"where the village has virtually ceded control of its ballfields to the local Little League organizations.

The reason? Well, when it comes to the upkeep of its parks?"with some rare moments of munificence?"Brookfield is cheap. Rather than pay for the upkeep of its baseball fields, Brookfield collects a little rent and then lets the leagues care for the fields themselves. You want dugouts, build them yourself. You want lights? Same deal. You want a pool? Hope the Kiwanis Club can afford it. Oh, it can't? Then goodbye, pool.

In recent years, the village has laid out funds to improve some of the smaller parks and tot lots around town. But funding is scarce when it comes to the upkeep of the bigger parks. Heck, it took over a decade to get a parking lot paved at Ehlert Park.

It's no wonder that the thought of the village funding the construction and maintenance of a village recreation center seems so far-fetched. While it's been hinted at and dreamed about for many years, it's gone nowhere.

Some of the criticism for this inertia has been placed on the shoulders of the village's Playgrounds and Recreation Commission. It's true that the commission has done little to mount a campaign to convince residents that a rec center should be built.

At the same time, such a campaign is next to meaningless if the village board isn't on board 100 percent. And since such a campaign would likely take years, the fickle winds of Brookfield politics would surely blow it apart.

That's why Brookfield should finally start talking independent park district and start talking seriously. Trustee Linda Stevanovich made a halting attempt to get the conversation started a couple of years ago, but it went nowhere. Even though she's a minority member of the board, if Stevanovich continues to believe strongly in the concept of a park district, it could be her legacy.

Members of the Playgrounds and Recreation Commission appear to back the idea of a park district and Village President Michael Garvey has supported the notion of park district in the past. With bipartisan support for such an idea, all that's lacking is someone at the village board level with the will to grab the ball and run with it.

Now's the time to do that. Certainly there will be many residents leery about the creation of another taxing body. In an age when tax referendums gallop in herds, like buffalo, we don't blame them.

But the creation of a park district would also free up money in the village budget for other pressing needs and, after all, voters would have the final say on whether a park district could be created.

At the very least, the conversation needs to be revived and residents need to be shown clearly the benefits and drawbacks of a park district in order to make an informed choice. Whether its the Rec Commission, Stevanovich, Garvey or a combination of all of them, somebody needs to get the process started.

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