As part of an executive order re-evaluating funding pushed through at the last minute by his predecessor, Pat Quinn, Gov. Bruce Rauner froze $26 million in grants to 75 parks and recreation projects in the state, including an Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant for Euclid Square Park in Oak Park. The park district’s $400,000 grant for completing the second phase of the Euclid Square Park renovation has been suspended for review.
“This particular grant is a great source for the park district,” said Jan Arnold, executive director of the park district. “It’s a way of stretching our local tax dollars by tapping into state-funded dollars in order to make improvements to our parks and facilities.”
On Jan. 12, Rauner passed Executive Order 15-08 which was intended to “address the state’s fiscal crisis” by ordering state agencies to freeze all non-essential spending.
“The Euclid Square Park improvement project is not scheduled until 2017 in our capital improvement plan,” said Diane Stanke, the district’s marketing director. “We are fortunate that we are not planning to move forward with this project immediately. We have time for the governor to review the OSLAD grant program and hope the freeze will be lifted by the time we are scheduled to begin the project.
“At this time, there is no contingency plan. We review our capital improvement plan each year. If it is necessary, we can make adjustments to the plan at that time.”
The planned upgrades of Euclid Square Park, which represent the final phase of the renovation, include a new playground, renovation of the existing tennis courts, a sled hill for toddlers, enhancements to the looped walking path, creation of a small, interpretive rain garden and extra landscaping highlighted by native and ornamental trees and shrubs.
Initially, Arnold estimated the second phase would be completed sometime in either the summer or fall of 2017.
Completed in spring 2011, Phase 1 of the Euclid Square Park renovation revolved around the south end of the park.
Over the past 10 years, the park district has been given an OSLAD grant nine times to benefit local park projects at Maple, Austin Gardens, Lindberg, Field, Taylor, Longfellow and Mills.
“These grant monies are important to our community because Oak Park residents value and utilize their local parks as evidenced in the results of a 2014 community survey,” Stanke said. “Ninety-four percent of survey respondents had visited a park within the past 12 months. The Illinois average is less than 80 percent.