Oak Park citizens will get their first peek tonight at the possible directions a renovation of Ridgeland Common might take. The community meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the men’s locker room at Ridgeland Common.

“[Tonight] is really to explain the process and get input on [the public’s perception of] existing conditions,” said Park District of Oak Park Executive Director Gary Balling.

Balling noted that the assessment process being used for Ridgeland Common is “a little different” than the other park master plans.

The current assessment, he said, is an “Existing Conditions Study, an assessment of the facilities at the 45-year-old park, “so we’ll know what we’ve got.”

The second step will be a master plan, expected to be completed sometime this summer.

The park district recently retained six experts through Thompson Dyke & Associates to conduct the in-depth Existing Conditions Study. Areas of assessment include existing architecture, electrical, plumbing, mechanical and pumping, and aquatics. That assessment, which will take 800 work hours and $36,000 to complete, started earlier this month and is expected to conclude within the next three to four months.

Balling said that park district staff will meet Wednesday afternoon with all village hall departments to get their input. A focus group involving all identified “special user groups” (see sidebar) is then planned for March 7 at Stevenson Center. However, Balling stressed that all future meetings are “fluid.” That includes a planned draft presentation from Thompson Dyke at the May 3 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Park Board President David Kindler, who has referred to Ridgeland Common as the park district’s “flagship facility,” said Thursday that the result of all that intensive assessment and public and user group input will help the park board and staff develop a clearer idea of how to proceed with any renovation.

“[It] will be, ‘Let’s look at renovating Ridgeland Common, or at other options,” Kindler said. “That is to say, a new Ridgeland Common.”

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