On Aug. 8, many of us in the community received an email from the Park District of Oak Park notifying us that new check-in procedures were coming to Ridgeland Common Recreation Center, Beginning Aug. 15.
“In an effort to direct and connect with our visitors … all Ridgeland Common visitors, 12 years of age and older, will be required to check in with facility staff upon entering the facility.” The email stated that two check-in options would be available: a digital access card in Amelia, the Park District’s app, or the person would need to show a picture ID and sign a “Code of Conduct.”
As a father of two hockey players, a youth hockey coach, an adult hockey player, and my association with the OPRF High School Hockey Club as a board member and a player parent for over 30 years, I had never seen any other public (park district) rink, in Illinois or elsewhere, take such measures. Asking a few others in and out of the community, no one else could recall any other public rinks requiring identification when entering. The discussions with other Oak Park parents revolved around how we, the taxpayers, paid for Ridgeland’s $30 million renovation and its staff’s wages. No one could understand why we should have to show an ID for access, since we pay for Ridgeland’s operation. No one was aware of the park district requiring ID to access other facilities that are open to the community for use.
Knowing that hockey season would be starting in September, I sent an email to Jan Arnold, executive director, on Aug. 11, asking for an explanation. She responded it was so the Park District could know who is in the building for safety reasons. She analogized that the local public high school requires an ID for anybody who enters the building.
I replied that requiring an ID at the high school, or Ridgeland, does not make either facility safer. Anyone can, unfortunately, show an ID and still have a weapon on their person. I also reminded her that the park district’s announcement did not justify it based on security concerns, but represented to the community that it was being implemented so that the park district could “connect” with those visiting Ridgeland Common. I suggested that to make Ridgeland Commons safer, they would need to install security screening (metal detectors maintained by security personnel) like at Fifth Third Ice Arena (the private Chicago rink funded by the Chicago Blackhawks).
Isn’t it time we stood up against policies and procedures that only provide the illusion of security? This reminds me of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
We must stand up and tell the board to rescind this sign-in procedure that adds no value, and, if actually necessary for the security of those using Ridgeland Commons, to implement more effective security measures.
Rob Roy has been an Oak Park resident for 30 years.