PDOP Recognized With 2024 IPRA Awards

Park District of Oak Park Recognized as Leader in DEI, Outstanding Facilities and Workplace Culture

OAK PARK, IL (Feb. 27, 2024) – The Park District of Oak Park was honored by the Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA) with three awards during the association’s annual conference in January, including:

· Champion for Change Award recognizing excellence in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the community

· Outstanding Facility Award recognizing unique achievements in the design and development of new or enhanced facilities

· Exceptional Workplace Award recognizing outstanding commitment to employees’ health and wellness, in addition to a positive work culture

CHAMPION FOR CHANGE

“Inclusion, accessibility, innovation and wellness are top priorities at the Park District of Oak Park,” said Jan Arnold, Executive Director of the Park District of Oak Park. “Our staff and Board are dedicated to cultivating a positive experience for everyone in our community. We’re humbled by the recognition of our work and are excited to continue building upon these achievements.”

The Park District of Oak Park established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Staff Committee in 2018 to identify opportunities to advance the organization’s commitment to inclusion across parks, facilities, programs and operations. In 2021, the Park District hired a full-time recruiter to expand efforts to reach diverse candidates, resulting in an increase in Black, Brown and LBGTQ+ staff members.

The Park District requires all full- and part-time staff to engage in eight online diversity training sessions and recently expanded training to seasonal employees and Park Board members.

“Congratulations to the Park District of Oak Park on being selected by their peers for this prestigious and meaningful award. IPRA is proud to showcase their dedication to and efforts related to DEI,” said Suzi Wirtz, IOM, Executive Director of IPRA. “It’s inspiring to see the work being done that will ultimately not just change one community but make the world a better place.”

OUTSTANDING FACILITY

The Park District Community Recreation Center (CRC), which opened in 2023, was recognized with the Outstanding Facility Award. The CRC was developed as part of the Park District’s comprehensive master plan after conducting a feasibility study and holding community meetings to identify residents’ needs including access to affordable fitness and wellness programs, safe spaces for teens and youth, and community resources.

The resulting 42,000-square-foot facility hosts a range of recreational, community and wellness programs for the Oak Park area, including:

· Free indoor walking track

· Affordable gym memberships with access to the gymnasium, fitness center and Esports Lounge

· Fitness studio

· Free after-school programming for middle and high school students: open gym, activities, tutoring, trusted social worker

· Inclusive locker rooms

· Community resource referrals for mental health and wellness through the Community Mental Health Board

The Community Recreation Center was designed with an emphasis on environmental sustainability, including using energy-efficient ventilation systems and solar power technology. The Park District paid for $15.6 million of the $22 million cost of the recreation center with private donations, grants and capital improvement funds, without raising taxes for the development.

“The Park District of Oak Park’s Community Recreation Center is a model for inclusivity on the highest level,” said Dr. Kassie Porreca, Park District of Oak Park Board President. “We were intentional about engaging our community from the very beginning to understand their needs and how CRC would positively impact them. Our programs serve more than 1,000 youth of different races, cultures and identities who come together and can be themselves. We put several measures in place, such as mental health services and gender-neutral locker rooms, to help everyone feel welcomed and supported. It’s a true representation of what makes Oak Park great.”

Additionally, the IPRA and Illinois Association of Park Districts recently presented key leaders in the CRC’s development with 2023 Community Service Awards, which honor individuals and organizations who made significant contributions to enhancing parks, recreation and the arts in Illinois. Those recipients included:

· Illinois Senate President and Oak Park native Don Harmon

· Illinois State Representative LaShawn Ford

· Illinois State Representative Camille Lilly

· Camille Wilson White, Executive Director of the Oak Park Area Arts Council

EXCEPTIONAL WORKPLACE

The Park District of Oak Park was also recognized as an exceptional workplace. The Park District is the largest employer of youth in Oak Park and provides employee benefits, including scheduling flexibility, professional development resources and wellness programs. A 2024 staff survey shows an average job satisfaction score of 96 out of 100.

The Park District established staff committees surrounding wellness, DEI, safety and innovation, encouraging employees to be active partners in shaping and implementing Park District programs. The Park District implemented Safe Zone staff conversations on racism, LatinX culture and LGBTQ identity, in conjunction with a series of online trainings for all staff. Additionally, it established a “Big Idea” program, which encourages staff to pitch and potentially receive project funding for new services, processes and procedures, such as battery-powered lawn equipment and solar panels.

“Our staff are our greatest asset. Their dedication, creativity and passion for serving our community are the driving force behind everything we do,” said Arnold. “The Park District is committed to supporting our staff through professional development, work-life balance, personal wellness goals and inviting feedback.”

LOOKING AHEAD

Following the IPRA recognition, the Park District announced a design competition to renovate its Field Center, enhancing the historic facility to meet its growing childcare and children’s programming needs. Additionally, the open competition and blind review process are intended to ensure that designers and architects of all backgrounds have an opportunity to compete on the same stage as groups that are traditionally more visible. The competition closes on March 5.

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About Park District of Oak Park: The Park District of Oak Park serves the recreation needs of Oak Park’s 54,000 residents, providing nearly 8,000 programs and special events annually throughout our versatile recreation centers, 18 parks totaling 84 acres, a community recreation center, two outdoor pools, indoor ice rink, gymnastic center, the Oak Park Conservatory, Cheney Mansion and Pleasant Home. Since 1912, our high-quality programs and well-maintained parks and facilities have dependably met residents’ diverse leisure, wellness, childcare and other needs and helped enhance quality of life. Learn more at https://www.pdop.org/.

PDOP Supporters Honored With Community Service Awards

OAK PARK, IL (Feb. 22, 2024) – The Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD) and Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA) have announced recipients of the 2023 Community Service Awards, which honor individuals and organizations who made significant contributions to enhancing parks, recreation and the arts in Illinois. This year’s recipients include Park District of Oak Park supporters who were pivotal in the development of the Community Recreation Center (CRC) and the Park District’s arts programming:

· Illinois Senate President and Oak Park native Don Harmon

· Illinois State Representative LaShawn Ford

· Illinois State Representative Camille Lilly

· Camille Wilson White, Executive Director of the Oak Park Area Arts Council

“The Park District of Oak Park is immensely proud to honor Senator Harmon, State Representatives Ford and Lilly, and Camille White for their impactful and outstanding service to the Oak Park community,” said Jan Arnold, Executive Director of the Park District of Oak Park. “These leaders stood with us and listened to what our community told us they needed. And then they helped us bring the Community Recreation Center to fruition. They represent our shared spirit of selflessness and commitment to making Oak Park a better, more inclusive place for everyone.” The CRC was developed as part of the Park District’s comprehensive master plan after conducting a feasibility study and holding community meetings to identify residents’ needs including access to affordable fitness and wellness programs, safe spaces for teens and youth and community resources.

Opened in 2023, the CRC is a 42,000-square-foot facility hosting a range of recreational, community and wellness programs for the Oak Park area, including:

· Free indoor walking track

· Affordable gym memberships with access to the gymnasium, fitness center and Esports Lounge

· Fitness studio

· Free after-school programming for middle and high school students: open gym, activities, tutoring, trusted social worker

· Inclusive locker rooms

· Community resource referrals for mental health and wellness through the Community Mental Health Board

The Park District paid for $15.5 million of the $22 million cost of the recreation center with private donations, grants and capital improvement funds, without raising taxes for the development. Since its opening, the CRC has served nearly 10,000 patrons and provided programming for more than 1,000 youth. The CRC was also recently recognized by the IPRA with the Outstanding Facility Award.

SENATOR DON HARMON

Senator Harmon actively supports the Park District of Oak Park and is frequently seen at its programs, parks and facilities. Senator Harmon was a key donor to the CRC, playing an invaluable role in the Park District’s funding goal to develop the CRC without raising taxes.

REPRESENTATIVE LASHAWN FORD

Representative Ford served as Co-Chair for the CRC project, helping guide how youth will build connections, access support services and foster a sense of belonging. Additionally, Rep. Ford identified State capital funding that could be used to help the Park District achieve its fundraising goal.

REPRESENTATIVE CAMILLE LILLY

Representative Camille Lilly also served as Co-Chair of the CRC project, shaping access to safe after-school spaces and affordable fitness options, and incorporating inclusive features and programs. Rep. Lilly identified State capital funds that could support CRC’s development.

CAMILLE WILSON WHITE

Camille Wilson White is instrumental in strengthening the Park District’s arts programs and identifying opportunities to cultivate an appreciation for the arts in Oak Park, including curating art pieces to display outside the CRC and across many civic and commercial properties in the community.

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About Park District of Oak Park: The Park District of Oak Park serves the recreation needs of Oak Park’s 54,000 residents, providing nearly 8,000 programs and special events annually throughout our versatile recreation centers, 18 parks totaling 84 acres, a community recreation center, two outdoor pools, indoor ice rink, gymnastic center, the Oak Park Conservatory, Cheney Mansion and Pleasant Home. Since 1912, our high-quality programs and well-maintained parks and facilities have dependably met residents’ diverse leisure, wellness, childcare and other needs and helped enhance quality of life. Learn more at https://www.pdop.org/.

Park District of Oak Park Relaunches Design Competition for Field Center Renovation

OAK PARK, IL (Feb. 12, 2024) – The Park District of Oak Park today announced a design competition to renovate and/or replace Field Center, a classroom facility in Field Park. The renovation project will modernize and enhance the historic building to meet the Park District’s growing childcare and children’s programming needs.

Registration for the competition opens on February 12 and closes on March 5, 2024. Each applicant team must pre-register for the competition, and there is no application fee. Registered teams can tour Field Center and other Park District of Oak Park facilities to understand further the District’s aesthetic priorities and core values of inclusivity, accessibility and environmental sustainability.

“Inclusivity is integral to our mission as a Park District, and we have to imbue it in everything we do,” said Jan Arnold, Executive Director of the Park District of Oak Park. “It was essential to hold an open competition and implement a blind review process so that designers of all backgrounds have an opportunity to compete on the same stage as groups that are traditionally more visible.”

Improvements will include an additional classroom to support expanded day camp and after-school programming and a soundproof room and stage for recording and performance arts. “Updating and adding amenities to this historic space will help ensure it reflects our diverse community and its needs so that everyone is and feels welcome,” Arnold said.

The competition is a callback to the Field Center’s original construction: It was developed after a design competition for a “Playground Structure” in 1926 won by John Van Bergen, whose designs were also built at the Park District’s Fox, Stevenson, Andersen and Carroll Parks.

“This competition represents not just a chance to redefine an important community space, but also an opportunity to engage with the rich architectural legacy and forward-thinking spirit of Oak Park,” said Chris Lindgren, Park District of Oak Park Superintendent of Parks and Planning. “We eagerly anticipate the innovative designs that will emerge and invite our best architects, designers and creative teams to join us in this exciting journey.”

The competition jury, comprised of architects, designers and building experts from the community, will select the winning team after reviewing all submissions and interviewing the finalists. The winning team will be awarded a $1.8 million contract to complete the construction.

For more information and to participate in the competition, please contact Edith Wood at (708) 725-20217 or edith.wood@pdop.org.

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About Park District of Oak Park: The Park District of Oak Park serves the recreation needs of Oak Park’s 52,000 residents, providing nearly 8,000 programs and special events annually throughout our versatile recreation centers, 18 parks totaling 84 acres, a community recreation center, two outdoor pools, indoor ice rink, gymnastic center, the Oak Park Conservatory, Cheney Mansion and Pleasant Home. Since 1912, our high-quality programs and well-maintained parks and facilities have dependably met residents’ diverse leisure, wellness, childcare and other needs and helped enhance quality of life. Learn more at https://www.pdop.org/.

PDOP Named 2023 Gold Medal Award Finalist

Park District of Oak Park leaders pose with National Gold Medal Award Finalist plaque

For the third consecutive year, the Park District of Oak Park was named a finalist of the National Gold Medal Award, the most prestigious award in the industry.

The American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA), in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), judges park districts nationwide by their long-range planning, resource management, and innovative approach to excellent park and recreation services. After a rigorous application and evaluation process, the PDOP was named one of the top four finalists for the Class IV category (population between 30,001 to 75,000).

This year alone, the PDOP opened the Community Recreation Center, a net-zero building, started a partnership with the Community Mental Health Board to improve access to mental health resources, implemented accessible, inclusive playground features for children with disabilities, and allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial assistance to community members.

Above all, the dedication of our board, staff, volunteers, and community members made this distinction possible. We are honored to be recognized as one of the best park districts in the nation and look forward to carrying out this legacy for years to come.

Aquatics Team Earns Prestigious Award

Aquatic Safety staff pose with 2023 award

The Park District of Oak Park was named a 2023 Platinum International Aquatic Safety Award winner. This prestigious recognition is awarded to the top 10 percent of aquatic safety teams who exceed industry standards for risk management and aquatic safety.

Our aquatic facilities, Rehm and Ridgeland, were evaluated by Ellis & Associates during Unannounced Aquatic Safety Audits during the 2023 swim season. We are proud of our exceptional staff and lifeguards who are committed to the safety of our swimmers. Congratulations Aquatic Safety team!