River Forest residents Mike Grant and Carl Bade have announced their candidacies for seats on the River Forest Park District Board of Commissioners. Grant and Bade will be running as a team in the April 6, 2021 election. Two 4-year terms will be open on the five-member board of commissioners.

Both Grant and Bade have served in volunteer roles in the village, Grant heavily involved in coaching sports, including little league, baseball, soccer, softball and basketball. He was the president and founding member of the travel softball team on which his children played. A resident for over 25 years, Grant has owned a business in town for 30 years.

Bade moved to River Forest seven years ago. In 2017, he joined the Youth Soccer board and serves as the registrar for the organization. He is a volunteer for the PTO at Lincoln School.

“We’re two guys with fairly different backgrounds, but with the same goals and perspectives,” Grant said in an interview with Wednesday Journal. He added that because they associate in different social circles, they “have a good pulse on the community.”

The biggest goal they have if elected to the park board is to see improved communication between the board and the larger community. With the issue of platform tennis, for example, Grant and Bade said they don’t have a strong opinion on the potential expansion because there hasn’t been enough communication from the park district about the project.

“They’re not providing the ‘why’ behind the project,” Bade said. For example, according to Bade and Grant, the disregard for the community survey was never properly explained by the board. In the survey, a majority of respondents said they did not support the creation of additional platform tennis courts and a paddle hut, yet the board decided to proceed with a feasibility study all the same.

Grant said additionally, there is a lack of understanding in the community that the park district, so far, has only approved the feasibility study, not the construction itself.

It’s this sort of confusion that Grant and Bade want cleared up, and this, they say, will happen with better communication from the park board if they are elected.

“If paddle is thriving, we can expand it responsibly,” Grant said. “It should be a win-win, and the park district should go about it the right way.” That includes communication about every aspect of the project.

“We want to be the watchdog,” said Bade. “We want to ensure that everything is done the way it’s supposed to be done.” For example, if traditional tennis courts are moved to make room for more platform tennis, the money must be paid back to the district from the paddle tennis enterprise fund. 

The team also wants to see better direction from the park district board on much-needed basic infrastructure improvements, like leveling the fields and taking care of trees falling down on the east side of Keystone Park.

“John Beto [superintendent of parks] does such a great job,” said Grant. “But better direction from the board should be given in terms of necessary improvements.”

Grant says that now, the timing is perfect for him to become involved in the park district.

“My kids are grown and done with the park district,” Grant said. “I have no ties, so I can evaluate and make good objective decisions. I’ve coached over 40 sports seasons, and I understand the community because I’ve lived here a long time and own a business in the community. I have a really good pulse on where we need to go. And I’m an empty nester. I’m ready for a new project.”

Bade said River Forest is a great community, and he’s enjoyed his roles with the soccer league and PTO. “This is the next step of my involvement,” he added.

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