With possible state grant money on the table, the Park District of Oak Park is roaring ahead with an initial proposal for notable upgrades to the Rehm Park pool facility even as it gathers residents’ ideas on what they want to see in their neighborhood pool.
Those two processes intersected last week as 35 Oak Parkers turned out to offer ideas while also hearing a presentation from park district consultants on what might be possible for both Rehm and the newly redone Ridgeland Common.
But first the park district is facing a March 10 application deadline for a recently announced state grant that could, if the application is successful, fund up to 75 percent of any upgrade under the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Facility Construction (PARC) grant. Jan Arnold, the district’s executive director, acknowledged last week’s meeting and the rush to complete an online survey were a departure from the park district’s usual planning processes. Some residents had questioned an apparent lack of transparency in this effort.
“This process is not typical of our master plans in the past,” Arnold said. “This particular grant was announced by Gov. (Pat) Quinn [Jan. 24] and then the grant application is due for submission by March 10, so it’s really an abbreviated 45-day process.
“In terms of the pools master plan, we will have another meeting in April and then another survey. We’ll do the same in June. We value input from our residents as a critical component in order to best serve the community.”
While there was a lot of pool history presented at the Feb. 19 meeting as architects and water management consultants described the two 1960s era projects, the future was more intriguing.
While there are essential fixes needed at Rehm, including front entrance accessibility and pool gutter replacement, Matt Freeby, a project manager from Water Technology Inc., described a range of possible upgrades to the pools. Among the possibilities are underwater hockey, surfboard water polo, paddle surfing, an interactive spray pad or spray play area, a wide variety of slides, an aqua climbing wall or pool volleyball.
Eric Penney, president of Nagle Hartray Architects, and an Oak Parker, said the primary objectives of the park district’s aquatics master plan include: establishing an aquatics strategy for the next 20 years, addressing any safety, accessibility and maintenance issues, maximizing use of both pools with community feedback taken into account, and improving amenities to better serve all ages (particularly tweens and teens). During the public comment portion of the meeting, residents offered both small and grand ideas including constructing an underground garage at Rehm, constructing a year-round indoor swimming pool facility.
“I think it’s good to hear from different folks,” Penney said. “We would like to hear more about the [aquatics] master plan moving forward. We’ll come back in April and put together some schemes of amenities we can add to the pools. That will allow people to see and respond to assorted possibilities.
Residents can fill out an online survey/questionnaire on the park district’s website (www.pdop.org) that will provide the park district input for both the grant application and aquatics master plan. Surveys must be completed by March 1.
The park district must submit its application by March 10 for the PARC Grant in order to be eligible for consideration. “The long-term purpose of [the Feb. 19] meeting is to create a comprehensive pools master plan,” Arnold said.