In reading about the River Forest Park District’s intent to purchase the former Oilily building, I find myself wondering about the need for such an expensive venture. [With eye on rec center, River Forest parks choose architect, News, Aug. 26] A quick search for adult recreation and fitness programs in the Oak Park and River Forest area shows at least 21 such options. Included in the list are a number of sites with full gyms, dance studios, indoor tennis courts, etc.

One site is the River Forest Community Center, which is three blocks from the Oilily building and has free parking. The other is the West Cook YMCA in Oak Park, which plans to move to a location across Madison Street, approximately four blocks from the Oilily site. Another popular fitness center, the Fitness Formula Club of Oak Park, is located 1.5 miles from the site.

There are at least 28 indoor youth recreation, art, dance and fitness programs in the OPRF area. In addition to the facilities dedicated to recreation, art and fitness, most of the local schools offer some sort of summer camp, sports camps or after-school activity. Do we need another recreation facility just so it can be managed by the River Forest Park District at taxpayer expense? Is there enough need for such a facility that it can be maintained for years to come?

Park Commissioner Hague mentioned that the “other available sites serve vastly different populations.” Where do these vastly different populations of users come from? Last year, the park district mentioned the similarity in user profiles as a main reason it wanted to pursue a “merger” with the River Forest Community Center. The user profiles cannot be vastly different and very similar at the same time.

The true tax impact of the Oilily building purchase to the residents of River Forest should be fully addressed. The park district is quick to point out that there will be no tax increase if a referendum is passed authorizing financing for the purchase. However, since the bonds will be paid off, how much tax relief would come from retiring the current bonds?

Now I read in the Forest Leaves that the park district has hired a firm to “stump for a new recreation center.” The firm will be paid $35,000 to do community outreach to “get [the Park District] the referendum.” If it is necessary to hire a firm to convince residents to pass a referendum, is there truly a need? Moreover, do the costs outweigh the benefit to the River Forest residents?

Mary Flynn Roberts is a14-year River Forest resident and a board member for the River Forest Community Center.

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