WESTMONT – The Westmont Park District is looking to fund a Wilmette Avenue Park development project with a state issued, Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant.
The 4.76-acre park, which borders South Wilmette Avenue from Scott Court to Hidden View Drive, was owned by resident Anthony Kuzminski until December 2013, when it was purchased by the park district for $600,000.
The Westmont Park District communicated their interest to purchase the land in 1998, according Superintendent of Parks and Planning Bob Fleck. Although the sale never came to fruition then, a right of first refusal allowed the helped broker a deal 14 years later.
"It's something we have had our eye on for a long time," Fleck said. "This is one of the last parcels in the area that had not been sold into real estate. We are hoping that we can secure an OSLAD grant to use the land to its potential and enhance the natural beauty."
An area replete with rolling hills, mature trees, a pond and a wetland area, Fleck called the property "one of the prettiest lots left in the community."
Working together with the village, which own the adjacent two-acre plot, the park district wants to transform the area into a public park encompassing sanctioned wetland, fishing pond, playground, picnic tables, and a gazebo and a boardwalk that leads to the pier.
Ideally, the natural integrity of the land will remain intact.
"We want to preserve and enhance all the natural features of this park," Fleck said. "We want to protect these large, beautiful tress, and we want to maintain this nice, rolling topography that looks like a meadow. We want to work with nature, not work against it."
Fleck unveiled initial project renderings June 24 during a public presentation. He not only detailed design elements, but also discussed the grant funding and application process.
OSLAD grants are a state funded and Issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, providing financial assistance to local government agencies for acquisition and/or development of land for public parks and open space.
Applicants can obtain funding assistance up to 50 percent of approved project costs; a grant can range up to $750,000 for acquisition projects, while development or renovation projects are limited to a $400,000 grant maximum.
Now more than ever, competition to obtain and OSLAD grant is amplified, according to Fleck.
"When OSLAD grants first came out, it was a new process that not everybody knew about," Fleck said. "Throughout the years, park districts have realized this is a wonderful way to complete desired projects while spending just 50 cents on the dollar."
Conversely, Fleck said there will be $24 million in grant money issued this year, up about $10 from the previous years.
The Westmont Park District submitted its Wilmette Avenue Park project proposal July 1. The Department of Natural Resources will make first cuts in the fall, and remaining applicants will then present to the department thereafter.
Grant recipients will be announced spring 2015. If awarded the funds, the Westmont Park District would finalize plans for a $900,000 project next summer.
About OSLAD grants
The OSLAD program is a state-financed grant program that provides funding assistance to local government agencies for acquisition and/or development of land for public parks and open space. Projects vary from small neighborhood parks or tot lots to large community and county parks and nature areas. The state program is financed by a percentage of the state's Real Estate Transfer Tax.
For more information and to view the project renderings, visit www.westmontparks.org.