By Megan Dooley
The Park District of Oak Park's board voiced its support last Thursday night for a proposal from a village commission to implement reduced speed zones on streets next to village parks.
To increase safety for park patrons, the village government's Transportation Commission voted late last month to recommend that park speed zones of 20 mph be set up on streets surrounding the village's most well-used parks. The speed zones would be similar to school speed zones, but would likely be effective 24 hours per day.
Transportation commission Chairman Paul Aeschleman, who will also be a candidate for the park board in the April elections, presented the plan to the park district's board and asked that its members endorse the project.
"It's a first step for trying to calm the speed of motorists around the parks," Aeschleman told the board.
Signage similar to that found in school speed zones would be used to establish the reduced speed zones around Barrie Park, Lindberg Park, Maple Park, Rehm Park, Ridgeland Common and Taylor Park. Park board members also supported the idea of including Longfellow Park in the proposal.
If approved by the Oak Park village board, the zones would be a first for the village.
"This is an entirely new thing," said Aeschleman. "There are school speed zones but there are no park speed zones."
Aeschleman said that the transportation commission hopes to bring the proposal before the village board in time to implement the speed zones before the summer.
If the project is approved and the park speed zones prove effective, Aeschleman said that the transportation commission would seek similar action for all the remaining Oak Park parks.
"We've never done anything of quite this scale before," Aeschleman said. Nevertheless, he said the project would be relatively quick and inexpensive to complete, and would have an immediate effect.
Oak Park police chief Rick Tanksley said Monday that the village police had not yet heard about the proposal.
The park district board did not take official action at the Thursday night meeting, but reached a consensus to support the plan.
"I think it's a wonderful idea," park board President Mark Gartland said at the meeting.
Gartland also said that a member of the park board should be present at the meeting at which the proposal is brought before the village board of trustees.
"This really puts a process in place for considering safety-related issues for traffic concerns near parks," Gary Balling, executive director of the parks, said later in a separate interview. "This is very welcomed by the park district."