After four public meetings, focus groups and an online feedback questionnaire, the Park District of Oak Park and its landscape architect Altamanu presented the consensus plan for renovating Mills Park last week. On Wednesday night, John McManus, principal of Altamanu, and Gary Balling, executive director of the park district, presented the plan at Pleasant Home.
The plan calls for keeping the park "passive" in terms of public use, while attempting to respect the "historical template," possibly allowing for future recreation of some of the features originally found on the grounds of the mansion formerly occupied by the Farson and Mills families. (The Mills family sold the home and grounds to the park district in 1939.)
Past meets present: The park district wants to make Mills Park more accessible to the public while respecting the historical heritage. Park District of Oak Park
The park, which has gone pretty much untouched since the late 1950s and early 1960s, will be renovated in stages between now and 2011. Other wish list features (such as recreating the fountain south of the mansion) will be dependent on future fundraising efforts.
The main changes involve several new entry/exits in the long fence that borders the park. The plan calls for openings on Home, Pleasant and Marion. In the southwest corner of the park on the Marion side, a children's play area would be created, along with a labyrinth. New pathways will be created throughout. In the northwest section, the "meadow" will be preserved and a landscaped strip will buffer residents of the apartment building to the west from the park.
Since Pleasant Home is a national landmark, the fence openings will have to be approved by the National Park Service, which oversees properties with landmark status.
A tentlike "pavilion" is planned directly west of Pleasant Home, connecting to the southwest corner of the building. It would be used to ease wear and tear on the home during public events.
Numerous oak trees will be planted along with an understory of flowering fruit trees.
The park expects to spend $300,000 by 2010 to restore the fence and create the new openings. The pathways, playground and landscaping will cost $650,000. The work in the southwest section by Marion would begin first.
The plan was formally presented to the park board's committee of the whole at the Oak Park Conservatory on Thursday and will be voted on at a park board meeting probably this month.
Feedback is still being taken online at www.oakparkparks.com.