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Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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The high school pools are in disrepair. We have few safe places for our teens to go. There aren't enough community meeting spaces. A new, intergovernmental community center can help solve all of these problems.

The Park District of Oak Park has done its homework. It conducted community surveys by a third party in both 2010 and 2014 to learn from the residents which recreational spaces they would like to see. The top needs identified by residents include an indoor pool, indoor walking track, fitness spaces, basketball courts, art studios and community meeting spaces. Additionally, the park district, along with the other five Oak Park government entities, completed a feasibility study in 2016. The process included meeting with community leaders, hosting focus groups and organizing community meetings. The proposed center is the result of these efforts.

A common refrain from Oak Parkers is the lack of safe spaces for teens after school, and a community center would work wonders in that area. Studies show that for every dollar invested in after-school programming, $3-5 are saved in crime costs in the future. That seems like an easy investment to make.

In addition to our teens, a community recreation center would serve as a multigenerational space for everyone, a place for youth, adults, seniors and families to come together regardless of economic background. It would be a much-needed community gathering space. The benefits of such a space are hard to quantify but include improved health and reduced stress.

One of the things that my family and I love most about Oak Park is the strong sense of community that is found here. The proposed community center, offering fitness options along with public meeting space, is just what this community needs to enhance that sense of belonging. For years, Oak Park residents have called on the government agencies to work together to create proposals that are truly in the residents' best interests. And we've finally got one that does just that.

Kevin Cohen

Oak Park

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