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!”

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Ben Meyerson

Ben was Wednesday Journal's crime, parks, and River Forest reporter, until he kept bugging us enough to promote him. Now he's managing two of Wednesday Journal's sister papers in the city, Chicago Journal...