Over the last 2 weeks, a very vocal group of citizens has raised concerns regarding the pending renovation of Field park. At issue is the removal of several trees from the west side of the park. The group contends they were never invited to participate in the site planning process. Furthermore, those expressing views in last week’s Wednesday Journal state that the removal of trees and creation of a larger open space more suitable for soccer were never discussed at any of the community meetings.

With all due respect, the site planning process for Field park was very public and open to all Oak Park residents willing to participate. The park district advertised community meetings and focus groups via flyers, posters and e-newsletters in the spring of 2006. Focus groups and community meetings were held in March and April of 2006 where public input regarding the re-design of the park was gathered and implemented into a site plan developed by Altamanu Landscape Architecture. I attended the second community meeting in April and remember discussing at length the removal and replacement of trees as well as improvements to the baseball diamonds and soccer field.

Additional opportunities for public input were available during park district board meetings on May 4 and then again on May 18 of 2006. The park district also communicated with the Mann School community on a regular basis, presenting the finalized plan to the PTO on May 8 of this year. Additionally, the entire process was regularly reported by the local press and posted on the park district website. To say there was inadequate public input during the site planning process is simply a distortion of the available facts. Almost every facet of the Field park site plan, from the splash pad and shelter to the park benches and additional lighting, were added to the final design based on public input at the community meetings.

One of the things that makes Oak Park unique is its supply of mature trees. We live in an urban forest of stunning variety and beauty. While it’s unfortunate that some trees will be lost at Field park, it’s important to look at the big picture: Almost 60 trees will be preserved with another nine moved to locations throughout the village. At the same time, the park district will plant almost 80 new trees around the revitalized park. In the here-and-now, we will lose several trees. But in the near future, the park will be greatly enhanced, offering Oak Park improved facilities designed for every age group. In the long term, Field will transform into a new urban forest with trees that will be enjoyed for generations to come.

Roy Phifer

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