Creating partnerships with other governmental and community agencies to provide services is the key to achieving and maintaining an excellent parks and recreation system. One example of this type of collaboration is the initiative to develop all-weather fields in collaboration with School District 97.
One of the continued needs identified in our comprehensive plans is the need for additional field space. Oak Park has consistently scored lower in the amount of available field space as compared to our benchmark communities. Limited land resources can result in overused athletic fields and a consistently high demand for field space. Recognizing the need to better utilize these precious resources, the Park District completed a Field Turf Study in March 2013 to evaluate our existing fields and to develop potential improvements. One of the key findings in this study was the need to incorporate a minimum of 3 synthetic turf fields into our existing parks system.
Since the study in 2013, two all-weather fields have been incorporated into the Oak Park system. One synthetic turf field was installed as part of the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex renovation in 2014. In addition, the Park District partnered with School District 97, Irving School PTO, AYSO Soccer and the Chicago Edge Soccer Club in 2014 to install a synthetic turf field at Irving School.
Two additional synthetic turn fields at Julian and Brooks Middle Schools were constructed in fall 2015 through the joint efforts of the Park District and School District 97, and the Good Heart Work Smart Foundation, AYSO, Chicago Edge Soccer and Oak Park Youth Baseball/Softball Association. Both fields use Nike Grind (ground up tennis shoe soles) as the infill, which has been identified as a more environmentally-friendly option.
The addition of all-weather fields at these schools will help us meet the community’s demand for quality outdoor field space while providing outdoor space for physical education and sports programs and a place to socialize during lunch breaks. These fields will also be available for the enjoyment of the general public when school is not in session.
The Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory and the Park District of Oak Park are delighted to announce that the Elsie Jacobsen Discovery Garden is now open! The Grand Opening took place on Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 10am.
The naming of the garden was an excellent way to commemorate one of Oak Park’s stellar champions. In the early 1960s the Conservatory had fallen into disrepair. Some suggested tearing it down to make more parking for Rehm Park. Instead, Mrs. Jacobsen started the “Save the Garfield Conservatory” (now known as the Oak Park Conservatory) drive in 1970. And save indeed they did. Without her efforts, the Conservatory would not exist today.
Elsie Jacobsen (1914 – 2003) was a tireless worker. In addition to saving the Conservatory she helped found the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, the Oak Park- River Forest Historical Society, the Oak Park Council for Foreign Affairs, and was president of the District 200 School Board. In 1972 the Park District said, “Elsie Jacobsen has never served on a park board, never held a paying job in municipal government but her influences will long be felt in the village of Oak Park.”
In 2008 the Park District prepared plans for plantings and hardscape outside the Conservatory as part of the Conservatory’s Master Planning process. A portion of this plan, the Herbert M. Rubinstein Memorial Garden, was installed in 2011.
The Elsie Jacobsen Discovery Garden was designed by the landscape architecture firm Altamanu Inc. The Elsie Jacobsen Discovery Garden creates a space that invites both children and adults to explore nature in all seasons. It contains nooks and paths with opportunities to observe, touch and interact with plants and natural materials, through self-guided activities and facilitated programs. A water feature with pump travels the length of the garden from North to South. It will also has comfortable places to sit and relax. Plant selections demonstrate the many varieties native to or hardy in northern Illinois.
The Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory donated the total cost of the Elsie Jacobsen Discovery Garden project with a fundraising goal of $200,000. “The Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory has been a gracious partner of the Park District’s for many years.” stated Park Board President Paul Aeschleman. “Their generosity, volunteer spirit, and dedication to the Conservatory make Oak Park a more beautiful place to live.”
In addition to the garden project, the main entrance to the Conservatory and the frontage area along Garfield Street was renovated.