RF park district prepares for Keystone dedication

? Commissioners, hoping that park lighting controversy is finally behind them, look forward to formal dedication of park, April 15-16.

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By BILL DWYER

The River Forest Park District board dealt with some unfinished business, then turned its attention to what promises to be a full calendar in 2005 at its monthly meeting Monday night.

After a year of controversy regarding both installed and proposed lights in Keystone Park, the commissioners were hopeful that recent adjustments have resolved any lingering issues. Park District Executive Director Thomas Grundin and two park board members were accompanied by several park neighbors as technicians from Musco Lighting worked in the park Jan. 31. Workers redirected the majority of lamps atop the poles downward, and installed cowling, or shields, on some of the light groupings.

"We made good progress," Grundin told the commissioners Monday. "We actually saw the lights go down."

Board Vice President Steve Dudek concurred, saying, "The lights don't look like they're glaring right at you any more."

Board President Colleen Horrigan said that light spillage to the south, across the Metra railroad tracks on Hawthorne Avenue was also reduced.

"It made a marked difference," she said of the adjustments.

Due to the water-logged condition of the winter fields, the lights on one pole on the east side of the park near the soccer field won't be readjusted until the spring, when the ground isn't as susceptible to damage from a 40,000-pound truck.

Grundin stressed that any further downward aiming of the lights would "seriously degrade" the lighting quality on the athletic fields. The district has one other option to enable it to further reduce any invasive light affecting neighbors during the season?#34;that is to selectively turn off certain light poles that staff determines may not be needed for a given night-time event.

Grundin said that the park district will receive a letter from Musco rep Doug Miller soon, certifying specifically what was done to each light grouping on each pole.

"It will tell us exactly what they did during the adjustments," said Grundin, who added that the park district will take their own light readings some time next week to ascertain that the light levels were in fact reduced.

Along with new lights, Keystone will have two new scoreboards installed by April 15. The new digital, wireless models will be paid for by River Forest Youth Baseball and Softball, which had been in discussions with the park district over the past several months, according to Grundin.

Grand opening set for April

Grundin and the commissioners are excited about Keystone's grand openings, scheduled for April 15 and 16?#34;a full four years after voters approved a referendum to fund the improvements. The Friday night ceremonies are intended for local elected officials and dignitaries, as well as numerous neighboring and state elected office holders who will be invited. The following day is opening day for the youth baseball and softball seasons, with as many as a thousand people expected at the park.

Also taking part in those ceremonies will be members of the River Forest 125th Anniversary Committee. The park board has already agreed to host the anniversary committee's schedule of events on its website, as well as produce links to websites of various affiliated groups and events throughout 2005. In addition, the park district is currently working with committee chairwoman Laurel McMahon and other celebration planners to co-sponsor a number of 2005 events, possibly including a Des Plaines River cleanup day, a Keystone Park concert, and several other popular park district events. As part of that process, park district staff assistant Michelle Biondo was present at the 125th Committee's Monday meeting at village hall.

"They stepped forward and offered their assistance in a number of areas," said McMahon Tuesday. "It's really very gracious of them to do that."

In other developments, the park board:

? Approved payment of $174,942 to Great Lakes Landscaping. The board now awaits a letter from Great Lakes stating that all contractual work on the park has been completed. That letter will be forwarded to the supervising architect for approval, after which the park board will consider authorizing payment of the final $62,000 due to Great Lakes.

? Approved a $7,310 contract with Connoisseur Roofing to do waterproofing work on the commuter platform that is, in effect, the headquarter building's roof. The building has experienced worsening problems with leakage after rain and snow, and Grundin told the commissioners that efforts needed to be made to seal those leaks before they cause serious water damage and health problems from mold. Work is scheduled to start early next week.

? All three open seats will be filled in the upcoming April 5 park board election. Current commissioner Holly Hirst will run unopposed for the remaining two years of the seat she was appointed to in March, 2003. Running unopposed for the two 6-year terms will be Ron Steele, Jr., and Dale L. Jones.

Contact: bdywer@wjinc.com

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