Park District of Oak Park plans to flatten sled hill, move dog park at Ridgeland Common

Popular features at park casualties of synthetic turf


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By Brad Spencer

Sports Editor

A flurry of local sledding enthusiasts and dog owners have expressed opposition to the long-planned renovation that will soon begin at Ridgeland Common, but the Park District of Oak Park says alternatives to these popular features are or will remain available in the village.

The sled hill, created in 1962 on the south train embankment of the field, will close permanently on March 18 as a wide variety of construction begins, including the installation of synthetic turf to the fields. The decision to lose the hill was based on the board's ability to secure turf, which is similar to the material that was installed on OPRF High School's Oak Park Stadium and Lake Street fields, according to Diane Stanke, manager of communications for the park district.

On Friday, a group of residents calling themselves Residents for Sanity in Oak Park's Parks, met with Jan Arnold, executive director of the park district, to urge officials to reconsider certain aspects of the renovation, including the removal of the hill and the installation of synthetic turf.

"We made it clear that even though contracts have been signed we wanted to share the sentiments of the community," said Rich Kullman, a member of the group. "A vast majority of the community doesn't know the hill is coming down or was even made aware that it was a possibility. It wasn't a very democratic way of doing things."

The group also recently sent a letter to the Park District of Oak Park's Green Advisory Committee and members of the village board.

"The basis for bulldozing the hill are to minimize rain runoff onto the artificial turf and to allow large playing fields. Why not simply dig a drainage ditch or place drainage gratings?" reads a portion of the letter that was also sent to Wednesday Journal. "Why again are organized sports allowed to dictate the policy of the park board and reduce the enjoyment of the rest of the residents?"

An extensive public planning process for the overhaul of Ridgeland Common was conducted as part of the park district's multi-year master planning process which has gradually led to the upgrading of parks across the village.

Stanke pointed out two other hills in Oak Park that are frequently used for sledding, one the park district specifically created at Barrie Park, and one at Taylor Park. "We understand that there is an emotional factor involving the history of the sled hill at Ridgeland, but there are other hills at parks in Oak Park, such as Barrie and Taylor parks people can use," she said.

In a letter published in Wednesday Journal on Feb. 27, Arnold emphasized the benefit to synthetic turf being installed at Ridgeland.

"Installing synthetic turf lengthens the sports seasons and increases the use of the fields by teams and individuals in a variety of weather conditions …" She also made mention of the sodding improvements to Barrie Park's sled hill.

The synthetic turf will also displace the park district's popular Dog Park Plus service at Ridgeland Common, where dog owners have been allowed to let man's best friend run free for two hours two days a week — Saturday and Sunday mornings. That service will discontinue Aug. 4, but the park district encourages members of the community to weigh-in on an alternative location at a meeting scheduled for March 6 at Stevenson Center, 49 Lake St., at 7:30 p.m.

"The Dog Park Plus service is unique," said Stanke. "Not only is it for dogs to run around and play, but it's an opportunity for people to socialize and the park district understands that and wants to keep it going."

Stanke added that a new location being considered is a possible dog run at Stevenson Park. "That's the point of the meeting, to get feedback from residents and gain insight into what would be the best option."

The Ridgeland Common Dog Park will close on March 18 and re-open at the completion of Ridgeland's construction in 2014. As an alternative, residents can use Maple Park's Dog Park, located in the northwest corner of the park and open from sunrise to sunset.


Ridgeland Common dog park meeting by wednesdayjournal

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Reader Comments

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Comment Policy

It's all expensive  

Posted: March 12th, 2013 4:18 PM

It's cheaper to swim in FP, EP, or Lombard. Name anywhere higher. Non-res fee cheaper than OP res price for family of 4. I get there are 2 pools in OP but I get value out of one. Sometimes I think OP does a price average of other communities and adds 20% because of our specialness. After all the over the top spending saving 5 million by rehabbing RC instead of replacing the tired stucture is silly

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2013 3:47 PM

And don't forget to keep in mind how much pool passes were this year and last. Wait until the new RC pool opens and see what a pool pass costs then.

Kathryn Jonas from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2013 2:25 PM

As recently as 2012, the Park District website posted under News & Info a description of the existing amenities and future work to be done at Ridgeland Common, and referred to the hill: "And you can't forget the ever-popular sled hill south of the ball fields." The District knows the hill is a local institution,yet made no effort to reach out to families/ children. Were they hoping this would slip under the radar? And what of the 79 trees to be destroyed, many of which would remain with grass.


Posted: March 11th, 2013 7:17 AM

An Oak Park family has placed a petition at asking the Park Board to reconsider the removal of the sled hill. It has around 500 signatures since Saturday. View the comments at

Soccer mom  

Posted: March 9th, 2013 7:51 AM

Paul "soccer" Aschelman and I think Graves too

Sick of the soccer promoters  

Posted: March 8th, 2013 11:50 AM

So who are the PDOP members associated with AYSO/EDGE?

Disappointed in OP  

Posted: March 7th, 2013 6:27 PM

I have kids too as well as a dog. I'd rather my kids play on soil and grass. I am not in favor of synthetic turf--we'll just have to see. Grass field makes it more flexible. For dog owners, we only get to use the park for a couple of hours early on the weekends when the park is not in use. To Clark on Lake St--re: comment about dogs makes as much sense as telling people they shouldn't have kids if they don't have a playground.

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 7th, 2013 1:23 PM

Disappointed - In my experience, those facilities in Oak Park that are used for organized sports are kept pretty busy, which means a lot of kids in the community are using them. If you don't believe me, try to book a practice time for a kids' soccer team. I'm all for taking space away from dogs and giving it to kids. What it boils down to is that we have to make choices. Are a sled hill and a dog park the best possible uses of public space?

Disapointed in OP  

Posted: March 7th, 2013 12:59 PM

The dog park is not just about exercising the dogs--it's also a weekly social event for like-minded people to get together. The yards here in OP are too small, and dogs don't always exercise themselves in yards--they need their pals too. It helps to keep dogs well-socialized with other dogs and with people. The issue is that there is not enough green space, and even more is now being lost to narrow interests.

Get Really Involved  

Posted: March 7th, 2013 5:42 AM

Yes, get involved with a special interest group such as soccer or dog group, and bully leadership. Better yet, get elected to a Board seat and push your own agenda. This decision was intentionally tabled and deferred after the initial meetings. It was not widely publicized on purpose. Guys like Les are a distraction to the real issue. Why wasn't he recognized anyway, was he wearing a disguise like Undercover Boss?

Get Real about OP politics from OP  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 8:30 PM

@ Get Involved ... You are delusional .. this deal was bought and sold years ago. I remember when Ridgeland Common was a Common. A Common is shared available space. The general public will no longer be invited to this park. This park is now and will always be a money making control for the local politicians to offer as a bribe. The public will no longer be invited to visit.

Get Involved from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 6:27 PM

To change things, get involved. Where was all this outcry for the sled hill during the public meetings? Be proactive. The PD held a meeting about this project yesterday. How many of you attended to let your voice be heard? This is not the forum to get results. Get involved and do your best to let your neighbors know about upcoming items. Proactive not Reactive. Your choice. If unhappy, no one to blame but ourselves. Community activation is what makes OP great!

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 5:30 PM

It is fair to say that relatively few people use the sled hill, and then only a few days a year. It's not the most efficient use of space. It would be nice not to have to choose, but we don't have unlimited space or funds. I have to admit, though, that I'll miss seeing the high schoolers sitting on top of the hill getting high at lunch time.

Sorry Dad from OP  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 3:50 PM

I take my kids up the hill all seasons just for a spot away from the ground. The Park Board has always been controlled by special interest groups and the Democratic Party. Just like the VMA it is all about public management jobs and money. They talk a god game about the environment and making OP a better place ... but when the money is on the table, the hand is in your pocket and the boot is on your backside.

Bob Wozniak from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 3:26 PM

This may be the only time I agree with Virginia Seuffert on anything (other than the Pope being Catholic), but I also think this is a really bad idea. The sledding hill is enjoyed by lots of kids and I hope the park district will reconsider what seems to be a really unfortunate decision made without much input from residents.

Chris on Lake St from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 2:59 PM

This is the first I'm hearing of it. I moved here because the leadership of the town *seemed* to be environmentally aware. Plastic turf? Making families drive to go sledding? I used to love to walk by RCommons. Now it will just make me see red. This plan is not why I pay high property taxes to live in OP. And I think if people don't have a yard to run their dog around for exercise, then don't buy a dog.

Face in the Crowd  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 2:02 PM

Hear that? That's the sound of the Park District and Board ignoring you. The hill gets a lot of use in the summer too for exercise, stair and hill training. Prior leadership was far more receptive and transparent. New leadership acts more like the paternal Village Board, giving you what they think you need and hiding decisions from the citizens to avoid confrontation. If the Board cared they would have been at Ridgeland last night explaining their actions to the sledders.

SadtoSeeitGo from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 1:50 PM

This is disappointing news. Sledding at Ridgeland has been a winter highlight for our family for 7 years now. Taylor is pointless for sledding and Barrie is too crowded, steep and dangerous. Guess we'll be driving to River Forest now. The proposal seems like a big waste of money. The fields are fine as is.

Speedway from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 1:30 PM

If the sledding hill is not being utilized certainly more thought should be given to removing it. Our parks have ball fields and sledding hills. Ridgeland Common Park can certainly entertain some element for walking or sitting. The idea that soccer fields are essential seems to be rather narrowly focused. Instead of focusing on just your own need, how about envisioning something where everyone can have a benefit from.

Steakburger from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 12:16 PM

Even with yesterday's snow, the hill is used by a small # of people maybe 6 days a year. Also, RC is not a park: it is and has always been an athletic field. The plan will be a great upgrade to an overused facility (except the hill). There are active spaces like RC, and passive ones like Mills, Austin & Scoville parks. It's about balance. OP doesn't have enough open space, so things like this are needed and essential.

Speedway from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 10:11 AM

Oak Park parks should be for all OPers, offering something for all age groups. Why can't the parks each offer small areas for dogs, areas for kids sports, as well as areas for walking or sitting for our seniors. I recently took a look at the PD offering for this summer. It is overwhelmingly for the kids. Why can't seniors have their own pool time? How many soccer fields does OP need with turf? We have found a nice balance when we see people of all ages using the parks.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 9:57 AM

I agree with most everything you wrote. How do we change things? Get involved. That means starting groups, joining committees and even running for office. Come to the Citizens for Community Conversation (CCC) "Meet the Candidates" event on Sunday, March 10 from 4:30-6:30 at the Unity Temple at 875 Lake Street in Oak Park. All candidates running for the school boards, Township, Village, Park and Library Boards are invited. You can talk to the candidates one on one.

Edge Parent  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 9:33 AM

The sledding hill doesn't get used that much. A town our size does not need two dedicated sledding hills. For folks who are arguing that the field will be less used than it is currently, I bet you'll change your tune when you see that field filled constantly with OP kids 7-8 months a year. Maximum utility. It was surprising to me that surrounding communities had turf fields usable by youth sports while we did not.

OP Executive  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 6:00 AM

The reality is that several of the board members are closely involved with AYSO and support this move. There are two very different Oak Parks - there is an inner circle who makes most decisions with advice from other in circle and the rest of us who are unaware, don't care or not accepted. Stop being so niave - all the public meetings and surveys are window perfunctory - they will spend what they want and look out for each other. Sorry - while unpleasant, it is the truth

The dude  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 3:18 AM

It wasn't too long ago that the AYSO and supporters were pushing for astroturf in Taylor park, and now this. Sledding in Taylor Park is good for 5 year olds and bellow, and Barrier Park is straight up dangerous. The sled hill caters to everybody, but the astroturf only benefits sports. Are we really going to get rid of the hill and grass so people can run around on plastic after a ball?

Priscilla Hensel from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2013 2:22 AM

With the Park District in debt for 20 million, and the overwhelming majority of residents not interested in artificial turf fields, why is the Park District wasting our money on this!

A Guy With Kids in OP from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2013 9:56 PM

Kids need a place to sled. I agree that Barrie is small and packed with older kids making it scary for younger kids to use. It is a safety issue. Taylor having a sledding hill? Really? Well who cares about kids having fun in the winter....I am sure my kids are going to love the astroturf.

Joan Winstein from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2013 9:53 PM

The wonderful aspect of the sledding hill is that kids (and families) in the central part of OP can WALK to it! And they do! What a nice family outing this is. With sledding only at Taylor and Barrie, there will be MORE cars (and both those sites have little parking) -- more urbanization, and unnecessary.


Posted: March 5th, 2013 9:39 PM

Do the "decision-makers" in Oak Park talk to each other? WHO decides to flatten a popular hill--that brings fun and a gathering space for over 50 years--for all ages of people--in a village park?Where will people go to "get outdoors"--in a parking lot? A synthetic turf field can't be used year round. How will you add beauty to this area? It will be an ugly place, flat, vacant, desecrated. You're taking away the spirit of the people, their connection to nature, and to each other. UGLY! Plans?


Posted: March 5th, 2013 7:31 PM

The changes to the field surface and removal of the sled hill are bad decisions. The new PDistrict Director needs to address these voices. I agree with the comments about Barrie being a scary hill and Taylor having almost a non-existent hill. Also want to say that the Maple Pk dog run suggestion would require northeast OPers to drive their dogs there, and what is tge point of that. Now we know the bias of our new Park Director. What's next?


Posted: March 5th, 2013 5:25 PM

@ outsider is correct - finally, someone has insights. Several park district board members are also involved with AYSO/EDGE. When will people understand, the surveys/town hall meetings are window dressing. The insiders do what they want, spend what they want and reward their fellow insiders...

Roxann Lopez from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: March 5th, 2013 3:53 PM

The Barrie Park sled hill is overused and abused and patronized by more nonresidents than residents. This will now drive even more people to an already congested and dangerous (for children) area.

K from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2013 2:25 PM

Yeah like how the track was supposed to be open for public use but it NEVER is!!! No one has heard about this till now but I don't think the Park District cares! Add me to the list of people who are against this!


Posted: March 5th, 2013 2:17 PM

The synthetic turf was pushed by a Park Board member with a huge soccer bias who wanted a turf soccer field in virtually every proposed master plan. The dog park needs relocation to accommodate the soccer field, the hill gets removed for the relocated dog park. Sure it was public but intentionally not vetted.

Power Plays...  

Posted: March 5th, 2013 1:53 PM

1. 98% don't want artificial turf. 2. People were told only about changes to the building & pool. 3. They did not know about artificial turf & changes to the field. 4. Needs of the many--98%--were NOT respected. 5. Needs of the few--2%--made "changes"--"forced changes"--at my expense. 6. So 2% took away what thousands of people have used, appreciated, enjoyed & needed--for 50+ years. 7. Sports teams may play in this field for 7 months. But ALL people played in THIS park 365 days for 50 years.

anne from oak park  

Posted: March 5th, 2013 1:33 PM

This is lame! How is this the first I am hearing of this?? I hate the sled hill at Barrie is is scary for sure and Taylor is practically flat! Get real Oak Park keep our hill at Ridgeland!

Adam from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2013 1:24 PM

This is unfortunate. Atrocious actually. Another case of the "2%" making decisions that affect the 98%. Have we not learned!? Are we so pacified by American Idol and Facebook to care? This is a big deal everyone!! 50+ years of enjoyment and activity, razed for the unique enjoyment of a few. So much for democracy and the public putting trust in its leaders. Why does OP continually fail its constituents? Did anyone ask a survey of "What do you prefer: a) plastic grass or b) multi-use hill?"

Steakburger from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2013 1:09 PM

Agree that this plan is the best use for the most citizens. The sled hill is useful maybe 10 days/year. I live near RC and we always took our kids to Scoville to sled. It's safer. It will be great to have a real useable athletic field for a change. I'm also a dog owner, and Dog Park plus was always a temporary solution.

Fed up with the park district  

Posted: March 5th, 2013 1:05 PM

Not everyone does organized sports, but a sledding hill is aLways open tO the public. It is time to rethink these policies and provide more public input. How many knew of this decision? The park district publicized the renovations to ridgeland, but not the closing of the sledding hill.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2013 1:04 PM

The hill at Barrie Park is treacherous. :-) Have you seen the debris from broken sleds scatttered around it? ****** Well, I guess the sledding hill at Keystone Park in River Forest will be getting some increased traffic.

Virginia Seuffert from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2013 12:35 PM

Both of the remaining sled hills are on the east side of town which means kids without access to a car are out of luck. Not every child plays organized sports, but sledding is an activity each one can and should enjoy. Bad, bad decision!

life time oak parker   

Posted: March 5th, 2013 12:25 PM

This is a case were the needs of many out weigh the needs of few. Many more organized sports players will use the field for a longer period of time than the few dog owners and sledders that are tempered more severly by weather. Change can be difficult, but change can be good.

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