The Park District of Oak Park voted unanimously June 21 to formally accepted an existing conditions report on Ridgeland Common by Thompson Dyke and Associates that recommends the replacement of the 43-year-old facility. Commissioners also agreed to begin a formal process leading to a master plan for Ridgeland Common. That process, which will inevitably involve wide public input, will most likely include an option to renovate Ridgeland Common, as well as to demolish and rebuild.

Park District Executive Director Gary Balling said he’s been involved with a “working group,” which included former park board president David Kindler and other interested individuals, that is holding informal discussions on how to proceed. Balling said that process will now become more formalized. He will be putting an outline together.

The first step, he said, will be similar to the process used to identify possible approaches to the rehab of the park district’s headquarters at 218 Madison St. “but with a lot more community input,” he said. “We’ll find out what the community wants to see in terms of programming and the [actual building].

The second step, Balling said, would be a site plan reflecting the desired programming.

“It will be: If we did the buildings with these programs, this is what your site will [look like],” said Balling.

Balling also said the board and park district staff would begin scheduling tours of other existing park district facilities to get a clearer sense of what is possible.

Seeking clarification, Commissioner Lise Valentine asked whether the board was, in fact, committing to Thompson Dyke’s recommendation to not spend the required $9 or $10 million to renovate the existing Ridgeland Common facility.

“It says we’re going to maintain it and do a master plan,” said Commissioner Jessica Bullock. “I don’t think we’re committed to demolition. We’re committed to looking at what the options are.”

When board President Mark Gartland said one of three possible options would be to renovate the existing facility, Valentine replied, “I think that’s important for the public to know.”

Park board Vice President Marty Bracco said he was eager to get on with the process, which he called “challenging but interesting.”

“I’m excited, just to be able to let the public comment on the crown jewel of the Oak Park park district,” said Bracco.

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