Brakes put on skate park vote

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KATHARINE GRAYSON

The decision to schedule a vote on the Stevenson Park Master Plan was put on hold Monday after Village of Oak Park trustees expressed concern about issues surrounding the plan's proposed skate park, lack of green space and the Park District of Oak Park's overall financial state.
Both Trustee Galen Gockel and Village President Joanne Trapani said the village should hold off on making a decision about Stevenson, Lake Street and Humphrey Avenue, until it receives the park district's Infrastructure Committee Report, which will evaluate the overall condition of park district facilities and estimate the cost of improvements.
"We need to look at this contextually and not in a vacuum," Trapani said. "We don't have information on current recreation needs."
The Infrastructure Committee will be presenting the report to the park board at a meeting on Nov. 21, committee chair Rick Kuner said.
As part of the intergovernmental agreement between the two bodies, the village gives the park district $1.5 million a year - an amount that Park District President Laura Perna is looking to increase. The village's current proposed budget includes a one-year renewal of the agreement.
Laura Perna, president of the Park District of Oak Park, said Tuesday morning that objections raised by village board members "were inadequate and not compelling." She urged proponents of the skate park to write and call village trustees to express their support for a skate park at Stevenson. She defended the park district's ability to pay for the ongoing costs of the skate facility.
At the meeting Monday, the park district presented the master plan, which includes a 12,000 square foot skate park and three half-court basketball courts. The plan also features a serpentine walk-way near a landscape buffer on Lake Street, security lighting and fencing. The park board has not yet determined whether or not the skate park would be directly supervised by park district staff.
The park district's proposal for a skate park came after a year of planning and public input. The choice of placing the skate facility at Stevenson resulted from a village decision to build a 2.5 million gallon water reservoir under the park's eastern half. The village allocated $550,000 to the park district to rebuild a new park facility atop the reservoir. 
The reservoir construction will be completed by April 1, Park District Executive Director Gary Balling said. If the master plan is approved, Balling said construction of the park could be finished by the end of 2003.

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