Just months after the park district approved its ambitious and costly master plan for a refreshed Scoville Park, it may have found a way to pay for it.
As Oak Park’s central park, the park district has planned to install a permanent stage, more walking paths and a revamped plaza around the World War I memorial, as well as opening up the park’s problematic southwest corner and planting numerous new trees.
The problem was, the plan was estimated to cost $2.1 million and change, with only $700,000 budgeted in the park district’s capital improvement plan.
With a big hole to fill, the park district had planned to improve the park in phases over many years — it simply couldn’t afford to do it all at once.
But the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, a source of several park district grants in the past, just announced a new program allowing local governments to apply for up to $2.5 million in money for parks. That’s a huge increase over the previous maximum grant of $400,000 from the department.
Park District Executive Director Gary Balling said they’re planning to submit two applications to the department: a $1.7 million application for Scoville, and a $50,000 application for a new “comfort station” in Austin Gardens.
“We expect this grant program to be highly competitive,” Balling wrote in an e-mail. “Because of the master planning process, we have two projects that are ready to go!”