Overlooked Cummings Square in River Forest slated for 2015 upgrades

Forest Preserve site at Lake and Harlem will get paths, stage lighting

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Deb Kadin

Contributing reporter

A long-standing landmark in River Forest is slated for an upgrade – in possibly more ways than one.

Cummings Square, the entrance to the Cook County Forest Preserve District headquarters at the corner of Lake Street and Harlem Avenue, will get several improvements next year. The list of projects, which are part of the district's overall master plan include: new accessible paths with some permanent seating; a ramp that will make the underused stage wheelchair accessible and an electrical system to support lights and a sound system at the stage for possible concerts.

That work is slated to be completed by June 2015, a spokesman for the forest preserve district said. Improvements are slated to cost $75,000.

Other upgrades could be on the drawing board if a recent discussion with River Forest village officials bears fruit, allowing for greater use of the property. Brought up in that meeting were a concession stand at the corner of Lake and Harlem that would sell beverages and snacks. Staging art exhibitions also was suggested.

In a statement, Forest Preserve District Supt. Arnold Randall said the meeting with village officials was good.

"We talked about things that are already in the works, recent initiatives around adding programming, how we're looking at activating the space, possibly working with the entrance building on the corner of Lake and Harlem," Randall said.

Randall declined to provide details about future plans, since anything that was discussed would be "very tentative at this point."

Village President Catherine Adduci said the district was "receptive" and that the forest preserve district would not be asking anything from the village in putting any efforts in place. "They're chipping away at it," said Adduci.

Named for Edward A. Cummings, a Realtor who operated a tennis club on the park grounds during the early 20th century, the stage and "square" fell into the Forest Preserve district's care in 1921. Today, the stage's band shell faces out toward the River Forest Town Center.

Talk of a renovation project at the Cummings stage has been in the air for a few years—and while the recent funding allocation is a sign that the district has the park on its radar, a full renovation of the stage would require a significantly larger budget.

Designs for the stage's restoration were first set in 2005, when, as part of the village's 125th anniversary celebration, an ad hoc group of volunteers raised $36,000 to see it restored. That money was deemed well short of what was necessary to cover the whole of the project—which was estimated to have cost between $125,000 and $800,000—and was eventually used to pay for the installation of a large clock in River Forest in 2012.

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Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: July 4th, 2014 5:52 PM

Glad to hear this is moving forward. That's a underused, full-of-potential, piece of land. Hopefully the Forest Preserve will move quicker than it did with the red light camera (didn't that take a year?). Cathy mentioned this idea at the OPRF Chamber event, State of Our Villages in mid-May. The Village of OP videoed and uploaded all three Presidents/Mayor's talks (OP, RF, and FP). Cathy is the first to talk, and this Cummings Square idea is at the 10:30 mark. // youtube.com/watch?v=YXyrRrg2qUc

Dan James from River Forest  

Posted: July 4th, 2014 7:39 AM

Great idea! What a way to promote economic development and make good use of our Forest Preserves for all the folks in town. Look forward to art shows, mini concerts in the park, and a more lively area for River Forest. Thank you, President Adduci!

Alice Harra from River Forest  

Posted: July 3rd, 2014 6:59 PM

Thank goodness. This is a great little park with a ton of potential for picnic, play, and cultural space. RF needs a public space where families can gather outdoors during these fleeting great days of summer.

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