Rec centers are 'real deal'

Opinion

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It is a shame that the people of Oak Park, the village and the Park District of Oak Park are again considering demolition of one or more of the three remaining historic playground structures.

Even as Oak Park constructs expensive Prairie-style signposts throughout the village, and installs grotesquely scaled Prairie-style planters along Madison Street, all to supposedly pay homage to the great movement in architecture called the Prairie School?#34;a movement that had much of its start in Oak Park, and has made Oak Park famous?#34;the village talks about demolishing one or more of the only three authentic Prairie School structures that are owned by the citizens of Oak Park.

The three buildings at Carroll, Anderson and Field playgrounds are the real deal. They are not second-class architecture, and they were not designed by a second-class architect for a second-class park system. They are still very much part of the history and legacy of the Village of Oak Park. The buildings have significance not only as the architectural gems that they are, but as they relate directly to the history of the parks themselves.

Though the park district and its consultants made a half-hearted attempt to ask a few members of the public about their interest in preserving and restoring these structures, they made no attempt to describe to that public the importance of the preservation of these historic buildings, or what the structures could look like, or how they could function when rehabilitated and restored.

Though, as elected officials, I understand that your fiscal and programming responsibilities are very important, so are your roles as stewards for these historic structures that the park district is about to acquire from the village. I have watched the intergovernmental dance between village government and the park district, and the steps being taken to hand over these buildings. And now I observe the absurd and nonsensical steps the park district is taking by having any kind of discussions about possible demolition of any of the three buildings.

I understand the burdens and costs of owning historic buildings, and how they challenge the creativity of their stewards. Very often those who inherit a legacy and become stewards, fail in their responsibilities. I would hope that is not also the case with the Park District of Oak Park and its commissioners.

I am less outraged than saddened to watch the citizens of Oak Park fail once again in their responsibilities to preserve what is important from the past for the generations of the future.

I have in the past, and will again, offer my services as a historian to help the park district take the responsibility to educate yourselves and the public about the importance and benefits of historic preservation, and more specifically as it relates to these three historic structures. There are also other resources available to you in this regard, and I hope you take advantage of them before making such a serious, irreversible and, in my view, irresponsible decision.

Marty Hackl
River Forest

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