The Park District of Oak Park has been dreaming of building a community recreation center for well more than a decade. Go back to the remaking of Ridgeland Common and you'll find the concept. Look back a couple of years to failed efforts to coax OPRF High School and the River Forest Park District into partnering on a recreation center.
Now the idea is back, front and center, with the news that the state of Illinois has approved $500,000 in capital funds for the project if local monies can be raised for what could be an $18 million project. The park district said it has already set aside $5 million for a possible project. And now efforts are underway through the Parks Foundation to raise a considerable amount via local philanthropy. One notable gift could turn out to be a piece of land owned by the Schuler family on Madison Street across from the park district's headquarters.
Jan Arnold, executive director of the park district, has pledged the project will only go ahead without hiking property taxes or going to referendum. We have been skeptical about this project over the years, knowing that it is easy for the public to offer support in a survey but then cry foul when tax bills arrive in a village already stretched by high taxes.
That said, we take Arnold at her word and also acknowledge that the district's gymnastics center on Lake Street has successfully worked on a user-fee model.
We'll be watching in the months ahead to see forward progress and to monitor funding plans for such a project.
Answer Book 2019
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