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River Forest Park District floats vacating Keystone Ave.

Commissioner proposes using part of area for dog park

August 21st, 2019 11:04 AM

Down the middle: The River Forest Park Board would like the village to vacate the portion of Keystone Avenue that runs between two halves of Keystone Park to enhance safety and provide more park space. | ALEXA ROGALS/Staff Photographer

By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

The River Forest Park District Board of Commissioners is open to considering the possibility of acquiring and then vacating the portion of Keystone Avenue that runs through Keystone Park.

But they agreed that discussing it any further is pointless until they know how the River Forest Board of Trustees, which has the ultimate say over whether any portion of the street is vacated, might feel about it.

During its Aug. 12 meeting, the park board agreed to write a letter asking the village board whether it may be open to the idea. While the board is still keeping its options open for what might replace the street, one idea that's got some support is using a part of it as a dog park.

Commissioner Mark Brown first suggested the idea in June. He argued that the street is currently "cutting through" the village's biggest park and that vacating the street would free up parkland. 

He argued that it would be a good location for a dog park, something that residents have been requesting for years. Brown also suggested putting in tennis courts and  potentially moving the park's playground to free up space to move the girl's infield out of a storm water detention area. At the time, park district Executive Director Michael Sletten said the latter suggestion would require relocating light poles, which could be cost-prohibitive. 

Brown also said that he personally saw kids entering the street between parked cars on the sides of the roadway, and he was worried about their safety. He also noted that there are clearance issues for trucks going under the Union Pacific viaduct on Keystone Park's southern edge.

Last week, Brown reiterated his points about a vacated Keystone Avenue right-of-way being a good location for a dog park.

"Lot of people want a dog park, but not in their backyard," he said. "This is probably the only place I can think where a dog park would work in this town. And it would not be the whole thing, it would be a portion of a thing. As landlocked as we are, I think that's something that can benefit us greatly."

Commissioner Lynn Libera said that she was concerned that the vacating the street would reduce parking, but she was also intrigued by the possibilities it could usher in. And she offered the suggestion of her own, adding restrooms to the park. 

Commissioner Dennis Healy said he wished the issue had surfaced when converting the infields to the artificial turf was first proposed.

"Honestly, I think it should have been discussed two years ago, when all the turf was being discussed, when you could have configured the entire park," he said.

After some discussion, the commissioners decided that it wouldn't hurt to at least ask the village whether that's even a possibility.

"If the answer [from] the village is no, it's not even a conversation worth having," said board President Ross Roloff.