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By Megan Dooley
The fate of the playing fields at Stevenson Park still remains to be seen, but commissioners on the Park District of Oak Park board leaned toward keeping a baseball diamond at the site, at their Aug. 23 board meeting.
Discussions about the future of Stevenson, which is the 18th and final park in the village to undergo the master planning process, have been ongoing for months. Several members of the youth soccer and baseball communities in Oak Park have appeared at park planning meetings to lobby for amenities that cater to each individual sport. Stevenson is located on Lake Street at Humphrey Avenue.
In July, the board had settled on a concept that would include a new layout for the basketball courts and skate park on the eastern side of the park, a new entryway on Humphrey for both pedestrians and vehicles, the removal of the park's baseball backstop and infield, and the removal and relocation of a number of trees in the park.
At a meeting in late July, representatives from Altamanu, the landscape architecture and planning firm that will administer the park makeover, agreed to look into alternative sites in the village for a baseball diamond, in order to maximize the space at Stevenson for a larger playing field, possibly made from artificial turf.
But at the Aug. 23 meeting, Altamanu's Josephine Bellalta said their search of other appropriate sites for a diamond was largely unsuccessful. An additional field at Barrie Park, which already has a baseball diamond, was a possibility, but other sites were either too small or not ideal for the lighting necessary at a baseball field.
The board did not make any formal decisions about Stevenson at the meeting, but the board consensus seemed to be to keep the infield and backstop.
Park board vice president Christine Graves said hundreds of thousands of dollars has been used to renovate the ballfield at Stevenson in recent years, and to tear out the field entirely would be a waste of that money.
The board was divided on the issue of tree removal in the park. A larger playing field means fewer trees. In some scenarios, the park could lose up to 15 trees.
"I'm concerned about it," said Commissioner Jessica Bullock.
"I'm on the fence about the trees," said Graves. "I don't like going into double digits."
But other board members disagreed.
"This is a tree versus kid discussion for me," said Commissioner Paul Aeschleman, noting that the trees are relatively young. "I'm kind of inclined to vote for the bigger field at this point."
Board President Marty Bracco agreed, saying they'll likely be able to add trees around the field to make up for the loss, which is something they've done in the past. "I think as a whole we've done a pretty good job in expanding significantly the tree count," he said.
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