River Forest park district seeks state grant

Officials request $400,000 for improvements to Keystone Park

August 21st, 2019 11:09 AM

By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

The River Forest Park District Board of Commissioners unanimously voted on Aug. 12 to approve a grant application for up to $400,000 from the state's Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program. 

The most notable item on the list is the much-discussed installation of artificial turf at Keystone Park's baseball infields. But the park district is looking to make other improvements at Keystone Park as well -- including replacing the playground equipment, adding a new shelter near the tennis courts, adding new outdoor ping pong tables, baggo courts and a GaGa Ball court. 

The grant would provide 50 percent of the funding for the improvements. If the grant is approved, the park district will have some flexibility when it comes to certain details, but the park district wouldn't be able to make any major changes to what they described in their application without the state's permission.

OSLAD is a program administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

According to the board packet documents, the park district expects the improvements to cost about of $790,000, which would mean the park district would have to contribute about $395,000 in matching funds. However, park district officials expect the actual cost to be lower.

The plans indicate that a new picnic shelter would be built north of the tennis courts, with two sets of baggo courts built west of the shelter. A "ping pong plaza," which would include two concrete ping pong tables, would be built north of the Keystone Center. A 25-foot GaGa Ball court would be built near the platform tennis courts.

GaGa Ball is a dodgeball-like game that is played in a pit-like court. Park district Executive Director Mike Sletten described it as an "up-and-coming sport.'

With the application deadline set for Aug. 19, the board agreed to approve the grant application as-is. The IDNR is expected to notify applicants by March 2020. 


Park district enrolls in composting program

River Forest Park District Board of Commissioners also voted unanimously last week to join the village of River Forest's composting program - though not entirely without reservations.

Julie Moller, chairwoman of the River Forest Sustainability Commission, make her case for the park district to join the village program at the park board's Aug. 12 meeting. She argued that it would improve the quality of the park district's existing composting practices and set a positive example for River Forest children. 

While the commissioners questioned whether the park district produced enough food waste to justify joining the program, they ultimately decided that the relatively low cost and the ability to quit the program any time meant that they wouldn't lose much if they joined, either.

Composting takes food waste and other organic materials that would normally end up in a landfill and converts it to use as fertilizer for the soil. The village runs its program in partnership with Maywood-based Roy Strom Refuse Removal Service.

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