By Marty Farmer
The Park District of Oak Park is waiting for word on whether it will receive state grant funds for upgrades at Rehm Park Pool. Meanwhile, plans are moving forward on the future of both Rehm and the newly redone Ridgeland Common Pool, said park district officials at a public meeting on April 23 at Cheney Mansion.
The park district, along with consultants from Nagle Hartray Architecture and Water Technology Inc., hosted the second of three meetings to discuss the aquatics master plan and listen to comments from residents regarding both pools.
"I think the meeting went well," said Diane Stanke, the park district's director of marketing and customer service. "It was a more traditional approach, which I think created a good atmosphere for dialogue. Resident feedback is important and survey responses are steadily being returned [since the April 23 meeting]. Currently there have been over 50 responses. Additionally, we will be placing the design boards at the GRC [Gymnastics Recreation Center] to allow more residents to view and provide comment."
Leading into the meeting, the park district collected 491 online survey results (93 percent from Oak Parkers), which included a variety of questions about the pools and how to develop their optimum use. Sixty-three percent of respondents would like additional shade structures at both pools, while added pool amenities like a water flume slide, interactive spray pad, lazy river and climbing wall were the most popular choices among several options, which could potentially be added to either Rehm or Ridgeland Common.
Rehm Pool consists of three areas: a diving well, the main pool and a kids' play area. The kids' play area, which includes a zero-depth pool with play features, a wading pool and sandbox, is the portion of Rehm where much of the grant money (if received) would be allocated for upgrades. Matt Freeby, the project manager from Water Technology Inc., presented several pool amenity options, ranging from assorted slides, waterways and games for both the diving well and main pool areas in four layout designs for residents to consider.
Upgrades for Ridgeland Common are more program-based. Eric Penney, a principal of Nagle Hartray, mentioned during the meeting that the pool at Ridgeland Common (which should last 20 years) is being painted, cracks have been patched, and the gutter, deck and mechanicals have all been redone.
The possibility of an indoor pool, which some residents supported, in the first aquatics master plan meeting, dominated the final portion of the April 23 gathering.
Currently, Rehm Pool and Ridgeland Common Pool generate funds that are used toward capital projects throughout the park district. Based on research, indoor pools typically don't cover all of their operating costs. Indoor pools which typically have the best outlook for financial success tend to include an activity pool for kids' play, a lap swim pool, therapy and lessons in the pool and are housed within a community recreation center or fitness facility.
In Oak Park, however, creation of an indoor pool could potentially reduce funds for the park district to allocate towards its capital improvement plan.
Per Nagle Hartray's research, projections for the cost of having a permanent indoor pool at Ridgeland Common are $13-16 million (plus operating costs) and $16-19 million at Rehm (plus operating costs). The estimated cost of a building a new indoor facility would fall in the range of $35-40 million (plus operating costs).
The park district has posted a second pool master plan survey to collect additional feedback from residents on its website (pdop.org). The second pool master plan survey can be found in the featured news section on the home page.
"The long-term purpose of these meeting is to create a comprehensive pools master plan," said Jan Arnold, executive director of the park district. "We will have another meeting in June and then another survey. We value input from our residents as a critical component in order to best serve the community."
Rehm Pool opens on Saturday, May 24, and Ridgeland Common on Saturday, June 14.