The River Forest Park District Board of Commissioners earlier this month voted unanimously to release the first draft of its strategic plan for the next three years.

The park board approved the plan with a few cosmetic changes and adding a passage about encouraging community and vegetable gardens. Once approved, the final plan will represent the park district priorities until 2022.

Residents can view the draft plan on the park district’s website at The board expects to approve the final version of the plan in May. The plan was put together with input from resident surveys, staff and the board.

The first goal is to expand “high quality programming and services,” including more adult continuing education programs, as well as team sports. It also calls for expanding fitness and wellness programs for all adults, including seniors.

The plan calls for using newly expanded River Forest Depot space to offer “adult cardio and endurance fitness programs.” The park district plans to review trends and identify programs that might be popular and meet the needs of all residents.

Other strategies included adding more family and adult events, working with other local government agencies and community organizations on programs and looking at ways to offer summer camps “outside the traditional weekday format.”

The second goal is to proactively manage parks and open spaces. That includes improving existing spaces using best practices as developed by park district, expanding development of natural areas adding more amenities to playgrounds, purchasing land as outlined in the current River Forest Park District Master Plan, and looking into the possibility of adding dog parks and picnic areas, complete with shelters.

The third goal is to get a facility – either buying an existing structure, sharing space with nearby park districts or building something from scratch — where the park district can hold indoor programs and activities.

The strategies specifically mention reaching out to the Park District of Oak Park and River Forest Community Center.

The fourth goal is to increase marketing in order to keep residents better informed. Strategies include looking into ways to improve the park district website and social media outreach, working with the Village of River Forest to ensure its events are listed on the village’s calendar and develop branding that can be applied all across the board.

The fifth and sixths goals are to strengthen the district’s finances and foster employee and organizational excellence.

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Igor Studenkov

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Growing Community Media newspapers in 2012, then from 2015...