Sandy Lentz

Park District Commissioner Candidate

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Biography

*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies

Our family has lived in Oak Park for 35 years, raising our son James here. My community service has ranged from chairing the uniform committee of James’ hockey team to the presidency of the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory. As a Master Gardener I have taught classes and coached new gardeners. I am particularly interested in sustainability, especially the impact of native plants on our environment. Serving two terms on the Park Board has enabled me to participate in the creation of the Environmental Education Center in Austin Gardens, the addition of runoff-controlling bioswales, and the planting of native plants in every park. In addition, the completion of the Community Recreation Center, which will welcome every resident and provide after school activities for our students, is an important project which I strongly support.

Questionnaire

What challenges face the park district in the near future and how will you as a commissioner address them?
  1. Emerging from the impacts of the COVID pandemic, including reduced staff and substantially lowered income, while continuing to maintain facilities at an optimum level and provide much-needed recreational opportunities for our residents. As a board continuing to monitor our budget and setting reasonable expectations.
  1.  Completing the Community Recreation Center (CRC). Working with the Parks Foundation on fundraising, and spreading the word to our residents about the value of this project,
Why are you seeking this office and what are your qualifications for holding it?

Community service has always been a part of my life. I have served two terms on the Park Board and want to use that experience to help bring us out of the pandemic and complete the CRC. I have served on the board and been president of the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory, as well as on other boards and committees in the community.

What aspects of the park district, regarding services and community engagement, need improvement and how do you plan to make such improvements?

We can always be better. There are many folks in the community whom we still do not serve. We need to listen, to learn what their needs are and how we might meet them. An example of how we are reaching out is our effort to develop an advisory group, including young people and people of color, to help us develop programs for the new CRC.

What can the park district do to increase environmental sustainability and equity of all forms within the community?

Sustainability: Our District is a recognized, award-winning leader in sustainability practices. Each program, each facility, is considered through a sustainability lens. We try to provide suggestions about such practices to other groups in the community about adding solar panels, planting native plants, etc. 

Equity: Our scholarship program and sliding cost scales work to prevent financial barriers to participation. We work hard to communicate the availability of our programs to everyone in the community, and to seek out the participation of underserved folks.

At this moment, how do you perceive the park district’s balance between passive park space and active park space?

We are severely limited in the amount of park space per capita. That said, I think our balance between active and passive spaces is good. We are always looking to add space when we can, recently obtaining parcels adjacent to an existing park.

The park district is using donations to fund the proposed community recreation center instead of using tax revenues. Why is this project important and how will building it improve the wellbeing of citizens?

For years, the District has shared school gymnasiums, having none of its own. Collaboration with other bodies is good, but our residents, and particularly our young people, have needed appropriately sized gyms that are available, especially after school. In answer to community surveys our residents have asked for this kind of facility, which will also include an indoor walking track sought by our adults, especially seniors. Our kids will have a welcoming, safe place to go after school. Our seniors will have a welcoming, safe place to get some exercise.


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