Keystone Park, back and better

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After five years of planning, public meetings, contentiousness and hard work, the renovated Keystone Park facilities at Keystone Avenue and Lake Street will officially and finally open this Friday night at 6 p.m.

With past and present park district commissioners and staff as well as several village officials standing by, scoutmaster Michael Harkins and the Color Guard of the Lord Baden Powell Boy Scout Guard Unit Troop 65, will present the inaugural flag, which will be run up the park's brand new 50-foot-high flag pole. After a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a tree and ground plaque will then be dedicated to former park commissioner Kathleen Nooney, who passed away in January, 2004.

"We're thrilled to have the park done," said River Forest Park District Executive Director Thomas Grundin Tuesday. Grundin thanked all the village residents who supported both the park itself and the 2001 referendum that made the work possible.

That $1.8 million referendum, Grundin said, has given village residents a facility that should be a source of pride and enjoyment for many years.

"It's such an improvement over the old one," he said. "We're glad to have another quality park in River Forest."

Besides state-of-the-art lighting and scoreboards, improvements to the park include new ballfields, modern hygienic bathrooms and a modern concession stand that will feature a variety of food items.

With the park finally opening, the park board hopes to be able to look forward to easier financial times. Grundin said that the board has had to "scrimp" somewhat in recent years to deal with the financial demands of the $2 million park construction. Together with the district's decision to cease operating the River Forest Woman's Club as of April 30, the park district, Grundin said, is shedding two significant financial obligations and can now "get back to its core function."

The grand opening festivities will be the coda for two commissioners' service. Board President Colleen Horrigan and Commissioner Maureen Dwyer will stepping down at the next board meeting on May 2. Both women were involved in the Keystone renovation's conception and development from the start. Two other former commissioners who had a hand in the park's creation?#34;Bob Altier and Patrick Deady?#34;are also likely to be present.

?#34;Bill Dwyer

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