By Megan Dooley
Less than a year after the master redesign project began at Maple Park in July of 2010, the 7-acre stretch of land was reopened to the public with a grand opening event on May 21.
The deteriorated tennis and basketball courts, which used to occupy the center of the park, were torn down, and that area was returned to green space. The new park design includes a playground, a T-ball field, a fenced-off dog park, and new tennis courts built in another location in the park.
According to Gary Balling, executive director of the Park District of Oak Park, the best thing about the new design is the pathway that allows visitors to walk from the north end of the park to the south end. Before the redesign, the tennis courts cut off access.
"We just got a lot of really positive comments from people through the weekend," Balling said of the grand reopening.
Nancy Holmes, a member of the Park District Citizen Committee and neighbor of Maple Park, said she's happy with the results, despite living here near the park since the 1960s and having many fond memories of playing there in her younger days. In fact, it was there that early romantic sparks flew with her now-husband, Tom Holmes. "We did our courting on the tennis courts," she said.
But she agreed the old ones had to go. "The tennis courts were quite an obstacle," Holmes said of the old layout. The redesign solved that issue. "It just opens up the whole park," she said.