Park District of Oak Park recently received a total of $592,000 in state funding to cover improvements to the west part of Rehm Park and help reimburse it for land acquisition near Carroll Park. 

The funds came from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant. The grant provides up to 50 percent in matching funds for park districts wishing to either buy or develop public land. 

A total of $400,000 will be used for Rehm Park improvements, while $129,000 is being used to reimburse the park district for half of the money it spent to acquire a property at 1146 S. Kenilworth Ave. 

The park district plans to finish up the Rehm Park improvement by the end of the year, while the land acquisition is part of its long-term plan to expand Carroll Park by buying up lots near the northeast corner of Kenilworth Avenue and Fillmore Street.

OSLAD allows park districts to request up to $400,000 in matching funds for renovations and new development, and up to $750,000 for land acquisition. 

Plans for Rehm Park include a new playground with more handicapped-accessible play equipment and “play grass” replacing the woodchips. Rehm Park’s iconic train loop play equipment will remain. 

To improve playground safety, the East Avenue entrance will be moved farther north, closer to the fire station. The park district will also place a new picnic gazebo northeast of the tracks, a new ping-pong table directly west of the existing gaga pit and new restroom between the firehouse and the park parking lot. 

According to the park district, the renovations will begin in July, with the aim of finishing them by the end of 2020.

As for Carroll Park, park district spokeswoman Diane Stanke told the Journal that, in 2005, the park district came up with the plan to acquire four properties near the park in order to expand its footprint. 

It purchased two northernmost properties in 2007 and converted them into green space. In November 2019, the park district acquired the 1146 S. Kenilworth Ave. property, leaving only the house directly north of it, at 1142 S. Kenilworth Ave., standing. 

Stanke said that the park district paid $365,000 for the property, with the OSLAD grant reimbursing the park district for half of that cost. 

If it manages to acquire the remaining lot, Stanke said, the park district hopes to vacate the turnaround at the north end of Kenilworth Avenue. But, as she noted, that is something that would require the village’s permission. Either way, they will decide exactly what to do with all four lots when they purchase the 1142 S. Kenilworth Ave lot.

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