The construction work is finished, the fences are down, and the plantings are almost all in. The redone Scoville Park is ready to be unveiled. And as near as I could tell by looking through the construction fence, the Park District of Oak Park has managed a rare feat: They have spent over a million dollars to make the park look exactly the way it did before spending all that money.
The new concrete sidewalks, the park benches, the tennis courts. It's all the same. If I didn't know better, I would have thought the contractors put up a fence, left town for a year and returned to take it down.
But on closer examination there is bang for the two mil. The corners of the park are now paved in "blue stone," which is a landscape industry term that means "expensive." It's the kind of material installed in front of sheeshee mansions in Lake Forest.
They also poured a pad of concrete to replace an old trailer bed that was stashed under a tree and served as makeshift stage for summer concerts. Me and a couple guys from the neighborhood could have poured that on a Saturday afternoon for a case of beer.
But that's how it rolls in Oak Park. Ridgeland Common is undergoing a similar transformation. Tens of millions is being spent to tear down one ice rink and rebuild it 10 feet wider, while preserving the 1960's roof of the existing building.
I hope they leave one thing alone. I really like the weathered nature of the Ridgeland pool. I swim laps there early mornings in the summer. It's a grand old 50-meter pool.
When I swim, I like to watch the cracks at the bottom and the texture left by 20 layers of baby blue marine paint. It's meditative. If they recoat the pool, can they do it in a historically accurate way to preserve the gnarliness?
Further down Lake Street, Aldi's is down and a big gym is rising in its wake. Plans are popping for a library lobby redo. The high school is reviewing its capital needs at the old campus.
So all is well in Oak Park. The excavators are excavating. Progress is occurring. And money is being spent that would make drunken sailors blush.
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