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Skate area, splash pad coming to Gordon Park

LA GRANGE – An above-ground skate area, a soccer field and a performance shell are part of a renovation plan for Gordon Park approved the La Grange Village Board on Monday.

Plans for improving the park date back to 2008, when the village consulted with a developer to redevelop a now-demolished YMCA facility at the park. Those plans never materialized. Five years later, the village's biggest park at last has a plan, and the renovations are scheduled to be completed by September.

Earlier this year, the project had been held up by a dispute over the transfer of a portion of land from the park district to the village. The final plans involve the transfer of a "fingertip"-size portion of land along Ogden Avenue, park district executive director Dean Bissias said. 

Previously, the village had asked for "a whole lot more land than we thought was necessary," Bissias said, but determined it only needed a small piece of land at Locust Street along Ogden Avenue for future improvements at the intersection, such as a deceleration lane.

In exchange, the park district will be able to construct parking spaces on Hazel Avenue, east of the park, an addition that several trustees underlined as vital to accommodating increased traffic.

The addition of a skate area aims to draw skateboarders away from downtown. The area will include a handful of small apparatuses, including a curved grind rail, two-step grind box, high box and two quarter pipes, but no below-ground features.

"It's not a skate park [with] the drop-in holes," Bissias said. “It's much smaller than a skate park. It's only a skate spot.”

Renovations will remove two of the park's four baseball/softball fields, which will be replaced by a soccer field. Other additions include a performance area for music and other events, an 80-by-30-foot steel and wood pavilion, a playground, a splash pad that shoots water up from the ground, pathways with health stations, which will incude things like stationary bikes and chin-up bars, concession stands, a butterly garden, fencing around the tennis courts and lighting for the sports fields. The plans also include the demolition of a brick maintenance shed that has been used by area fire departments for burn and smoke training.

Despite the Village Board's unanimous approval of the project, Trustee Jeff Nowak asked the park district to consider how it will keep residents safe as the park receives more visitors.

“The sense I got from the park district was they don’t anticipate increased traffic to a renovated Gordon Park," Nowak said. "To me, that seems a bit miscalculated. I hope that these renovations will be wildly successful and there will a ton more traffic to Gordon Park."

Nowak then urged the park district to take, “proactive efforts to ensure safety of residents,” using the park. Nowak cited concerns about residents crossing busy Ogden Avenue to get to the park.

Construction on the project could begin at the start of May, Bissias said, and should be finished by September. None of the new features will open before the entire project is completed.

Bissias said the project will cost $2.2 million. The park district will be reimbursed for $400,000 of the cost through an Illinois Open Space Land Acquisition grant.

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