I have attended three of the most recent River Forest Park District board meetings, and co-hosted a meeting to learn about the Feb. 2 referendum to acquire the Oilily property and build a park district facility. Questions by those in attendance ranged from “Is this the best you can do for a community such as River Forest (the building needs to be more visionary and expansive)?” to “Why would we expand beyond the space in the train depot?” and everything in between.
My husband and I will vote yes for the referendum for the following reasons:
1) The park district currently relies on other providers for any sizeable indoor space for recreation, meetings and program offerings. This dependence prevents it from offering activities that we envision a park district in a town such as River Forest should be offering to our community. This is especially true during the six to seven months of the year when we are not able to utilize our outdoor space.
2) As our sons continue to grow and gain independence, we would like a supervised place for them to congregate with their friends. This plan for the park district facility appeals to them for things such as teen nights with open gym, volleyball courts, indoor soccer and meeting space.
3) Those buying homes like the ones found in River Forest will look at community infrastructure as part of their buying decision. River Forest is sorely lacking when it comes to indoor park district facilities. As part of protecting the value of our home, Greg and I feel expanding the park district’s indoor facilities is a good long-term investment. The proposed bond will replace retiring debt. Thus, passing the referendum and issuing the $8 million bond will not raise taxes.
4) If it were not for the difficult economic period, the Oilily building would likely not be available for purchase, the bond rate would likely not be so low, and the construction rates would likely not be so affordable. Now is the time to take advantage of these factors, rather than shying away from them.
The plans have changed significantly over the past four months, with the most recent drawings posted on the park district Web site (www.rfparks.org). Changes include: No green space will be taken from Washington Square Park, the tennis courts will remain, the footprint of the proposed building does not extend beyond the current Oilily property lines, parking has been expanded, and privacy landscaping has been added. The idea of swimming pools, either indoor or outdoor, has been removed.
In addition to the plans, the Web site has frequently asked questions about this project (especially the question about the River Forest Community Center, which many folks, including myself, thought was part of the River Forest Park District), and an operating budget for the new facility.
By voting yes for the referendum, you will be investing in River Forest’s infrastructure and creating the park district facility that residents of River Forest deserve.
Kitty and Greg Bingham have lived in River Forest for five years. They have two preteen boys who are currently attending Willard and Roosevelt schools in River Forest.