Park districts receive state grants

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The Hickory Hills and Oak Lawn park districts won state grants on Saturday that will allow them to move forward with significant improvements designed to improve recreation in both communities.
  This is the first time the Hickory Hills Park District has won a state grant, said Director Jennifer Fullerton.
  “We’re very excited,” Fullerton said.
  The district won $390,000 matching grant that will be used for improvements at Kasey Meadow Park, 8047 W. 91st Place.
  The district plans to spend $787,000 to install a half-mile walking trail at the park that will begin at the parking lot and extend to the baseball fields and splash pad before returning to the Cynthia Neal Center.
  Fullerton said the path is an important addition because runners and walkers currently are forced onto the street during their laps.
  “We’ve got a lot of joggers and walkers,” she said.
  The funding also will be used to make the 17-acre park more American Disabilities Act-compliant, Fullerton said. Specifically, additional ADA-compliant seating will be built near the baseball diamonds.
  The district also plans to add outdoor fitness stations near 91st Street and 82nd Avenue. The cloisters of equipment will enhance the workout for walkers and runners, Fullerton said.
  Finally, two splash pads and playgrounds and will be demolished and replaced. The new playground equipment will be selected based partially on the recommendations of children who use the park.
  “This is exciting for them” Fullerton said.
  The district also held a community meeting and met with regular users when it prepared its grant proposal.
  Winning state grants is becoming routine for the Oak Lawn Park District, which has won several state grants over the past decade.
  This year, the district won a $400,000 grant that it will use to help fund significant improvements at Worthbrook Park, 90th Street and Ridgeland Avenue.
  Improvements include construction of a new skate park and installation of a walking path, new splash pads and new family picnic shelter.
  “We’ll be starting as soon as possible,” Park Director Maddie Kelly said.
  Plans also call for the addition of a new basketball court that will accommodate three hoops, new LED lights and a rain garden.
  Kelly said researching and preparing the written grant proposal requires a lot of work.
  “It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it when you get a check for $400,000,” she said.
  The state awarded grants totaling $16.5 million to 46 park and playground projects statewide. The 46 were chosen from among hundreds of application from park and recreation throughout the state.
  The projects are financed through the state’s Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development program, which is administered by the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources.
  Grants have been awarded each year since 1986. It is funded through the Real Estate Transfer Tax, which is part of every property sale in Illinois.