Carroll Park plan revisited

Park district hosts meeting to review plan, discuss upgrades

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By Marty Farmer

Staff Reporter

The Park District of Oak Park held a community meeting on Jan. 21 to revisit the Carroll Park Master Plan from 2005 and share ideas about future improvements for the park, located in the southwest quadrant of Oak Park. Currently, Carroll Park features a large green field, a baseball diamond, tot lot and playground. The nearby Carroll Center hosts a variety of park district programs for children and adults.

After a brief introduction from Executive Director Jan Arnold at the Jan. 21 meeting, John MacManus and Josephine Bellata of Altamanu, the park district's landscape architecture/urban design/planning firm, led an hour-and-a-half-long slideshow presentation and discussion about Carroll Park.

The multipurpose meeting reviewed the 2005 Carroll Park Master Plan, including community recommendations from residents, along with the portions accomplished to date and the next phase of improvements to Carroll Park (adjacent to Lincoln Elementary School).

"The meeting went well," said Diane Stanke, director of Marketing and Customer Service for the park district. "Although we didn't have a huge turnout, some key interests were represented, including neighbors, historic preservation, the baseball association and District 97. The crowd in attendance provided useful feedback to the consultants from Altamanu. Each area of the park was discussed and many good ideas were shared."

During the 2005 master plan process, several focus groups and community meetings were held and subsequent voting three times on six possible schemes. 

Residents expressed concerns about a need to replace the playground, no North-South walking path, constructing a new and relocated Carroll Center, and needed improvements regarding ballfields, lighting, sightlines and overall safety within the park.

At a cost of $370,000, the Phase 1 construction recommendations were successfully carried out, such as relocation of the turnaround and a relocated/updated playground, which both moved east. Also, a new tree-lined path through the park (which set off the school playground from the ballfields and allowed for more seating, wider fields and extra green space), enhanced lighting for safety purposes, and improved drainage under the playground were added.

Originally designed by Oak Park architect John Van Bergen, the Carroll Center has always been a point of emphasis in the park. During the 2005 planning process, residents stated they would like to see a new and relocated Carroll Center. While this objective is currently outside construction funding, the long-term goal of attaching the new recreation center to Lincoln Elementary remains a strong possibility.

At last month's meeting, the next phase of continuing improvements to Carroll Park was discussed, utilizing additional community recommendations from the 2005 Master Plan as a launch point.

Those additional recommendations include a path around the park with distance markers for school and residents, a new entry in the northwest corner of the parcel, improved field conditions with an irrigation system, "field box" storage for baseball supplies, all baseball facilities installed to a high standard of design, and the possibility of an outside classroom.

"The most important items over the long haul are to identify specifically what the current and next generation of park users need, and sort out what can be afforded and sustained," said Mike Grandy, parks superintendent of Buildings & Grounds. "Every amenity installed in a park site requires maintenance. 

High-quality materials, good engineering, and proper maintenance will result in sites that are safe and that can be operated efficiently and economically."  

The park district purchased two properties on Kenilworth Avenue. Potentially, the additional land could provide amenities such as a new entry, bigger fields, and an area for batting cages, extra green space as well as other uses.

Added Grandy: "When the parks need renovation, we must bring them up to date, or they will not fulfill the needs of the community."

Email: Twitter: @OakParkSports

Reader Comments

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Feline Fanatic  

Posted: February 10th, 2014 1:39 PM

Any truth to the rumor they will adding the cat park so many of us Oak Parkers crave? I think we can all agree our community is in desperate need of a place for our feline friends to gather and socialize, sans leash!

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 10th, 2014 12:26 PM

Adam, the previous poster is correct. This represents not a reopening, but continuing discussion in advance of Phase 2 work. The Master Plans by design allow for future tweaking based upon evolution of the area, enhancements to equipment & processes, etc. The addition of the 2 parcels the PDOP bought on the SE side of Grove is a case in point. The properties were purchased after the plan was created, so this is the perfect time to incorporate them into the overall parcel. And to "Done", the "money laying around" is simply the Carroll Phase 2 budget that was created years ago as part of the PDOP's Capital Improvement Plan & represents the PDOP spending within it's means. Lastly, I didn't infer from the article that the playground was being replaced, only that one person suggested it. As I recall equipment such as this, properly maintained, will last 15+ years.

to Adam  

Posted: February 10th, 2014 11:55 AM

They are not reopening, but continuing to re-evaluate and keep the parks current.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2014 8:26 AM

Methinks the PD has some money laying around that needs to be spent.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2014 1:06 AM

For those looking to stay informed of the Park District's facility plans (this is a Park District issue, not a Village issue), as well as other information, there are monthly emails. Here's where you sign-up... And here's the Park District's website... And its Facebook page... There's also a Twitter account, but it's not updated often enough.

Adam Smith  

Posted: February 9th, 2014 10:59 PM

Reopening these master plans are a slap in the face to all those who took the time and effort the first time around.

Carroll Park neighbor  

Posted: February 9th, 2014 9:10 AM

The playground was completely replaced five yeas ago and the new path and trees added, so I'm confused about why these elements need to be replaced. The ballfield drainage upgrade never worked, I can attest to that. My suggestion would be to add a gazebo and water fountain, such as what was installed at Field Park behind Mann School. Those are gathering spots for families. Field Park is always well used.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 9th, 2014 8:07 AM

Interesting! The long range plan illustration fails to include the two lots that the park district purchased several years ago. I hear that there is a plan to put batting cages there so it is desirable to keep that gem under wraps.

OP Resident #682 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 8th, 2014 9:48 PM

Agree with South Grove. My kids go to Lincoln. I'd have gladly participated had there been some mention of the meeting or notification to parents within the relevant school district. This village needs much, much better communication with its residents.

SouthGrove from Oak Park  

Posted: February 7th, 2014 12:13 AM

I'm guessing turnout was low because they didn't do a good job of informing residents. I live near the school and pick up my kids at Carrol daily. I didn't even know that this meeting was being held!

K.T. Katlover from Oak Park  

Posted: February 5th, 2014 12:59 PM

When will Oak Park get a much needed cat park? People look at me like I'm some kind of weirdo everytime I take Whiskers for a walk on her leash!

Why does the sports writer report on the Park District?  

Posted: February 5th, 2014 8:49 AM

And where was the WJ for the Winter Festival that the Park District put together this past Saturday? Not a photo, nothing. Thank you pd, it was a great and FREE event.

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