So the park district in Oak Park has a master plan — and this unit of government is serious about its master planning — that calls for adding a specific number of synthetic turf playing fields in Oak Park. And the plan called for adding an all-weather field at Stevenson Park, Lake and Humphrey. That park is notable mainly for its odd elevation, as the two major portions of Stevenson are built atop two village of Oak Park concrete water reservoirs.
Alas, when the park district went to the village for its OK to lay Astro Turf — yes, the most modern version — on top of one of the reservoirs, the village said no. Not a good idea. So the park district has now gone instead to the District 97 school board and proposed dropping this very expensive gift on the rutted grass field hidden behind Percy Julian Middle School at Washington and Ridgeland. Collaboration, shared use, savvy use of limited land, and all that.
We expected the school board to offer either simple thanks or raise environmental and health concerns along the lines of paving paradise and putting up a rubberized parking lot. Instead, at its meeting last week, the D97 board reached into a different toolbox of objections entirely and said it would create educational inequity if one middle school, Percy Julian, had a synthetic field and the other middle school, Gwendolyn Brooks, had none.
Didn’t see that coming. Instead of using this as a valuable teaching moment that life is not always entirely fair — well, it usually isn’t fair at all — the school board asked its staff to return to the park district and say, “more please.” At a cost in the hundreds of thousands, we’re hoping the parks simply don’t have the money sitting around to acquiesce to the school board’s request.
We’d urge the D97 board to show gratitude for solving half of a problem and then start planning ways to collaborate in the future on getting the other half of the synthetic loaf.