A rec center will benefit all

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

November 14th, 2017 3:08 PM

I am writing in support of the Community Recreation Center (CRC) proposed by the Park District of Oak Park. A 16-year Oak Park resident with kids and an active member in the community, I have served on boards focused on the education and well-being of Oak Park's youth. 

The Oak Park and River Forest park districts are under pressure to offer an indoor pool and OPRF High School District 200 knows if they want public support for a competition-size pool, they will need to make this available to the public. The CRC is a cost-effective solution for creating a facility shared by multiple government agencies. 

As the parent of a swimmer, I fully support this community endeavor to create a place for our team to practice and host meets. Given the space constraints on the OPRF campus, this is the best space we could imagine for our team.

I understand that there is resistance from the FFC as they feel the CRC will take patronage away from their facility. However, FFC is currently building a brand new facility in Elmhurst where the local park district already has a community center, a YMCA, and many smaller fitness boutiques. The CRC can effectively coexist with a for-profit club like the FFC. It appears that FFC realizes that in Elmhurst there are plenty of fitness users at different socio-economic levels who need to be served in that community, not unlike Oak Park and River Forest.

The park district along with the other five Oak Park government entities completed a feasibility study in 2016 for this project. The surveys conducted by an independent third party in both 2010 and 2014 revealed that the needs of the community align with those priorities identified through the 2016 feasibility study: indoor pool, indoor walking track, fitness, basketball courts, arts studios and community meeting spaces. 

The new CRC would:

1) Provide safe spaces for kids after school as well as a place for youth, adults, seniors and families to come together regardless of economic background.

2) Allow community building through recreational and wellness activities that have been identified by the residents.

3) Serve as a multi-generational space for the whole community. 

Studies show that for every dollar spent in after-school programming, $3-$5 are saved in crime costs in the future. With this in mind, providing a free open gym to our youth is an investment in their future and most likely a cost savings to our community.

 I appreciate your consideration of this most important issue in our community. 

Adrienne McMullen

Oak Park