The Park District of Oak Park was notified in January 2020 by the Office of Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources that our community will receive a $400,000 matching grant for the renovation of Rehm Park and a $192,000 matching grant for land acquisition near Carroll Park. These funds are part of the Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) Grant Program which provides matching dollars for outdoor recreation space projects throughout Illinois.
Rehm Park improvements will include a new, accessible playground and surface, a game area, a picnic gazebo, and a much-needed restroom. The entrance off of East Avenue into the playground will be moved to the north end of the playground to heighten playground safety. Park renovation is slated to begin in July and completed by the end of the year. Input for park improvements gathered in 2008 was utilized to develop the original Rehm Park site plan which was updated through a community input process in 2016. A park site plan is required for an OSLAD grant application.
The land acquired with OSLAD grant money is near Carroll Park. This property was identified for acquisition as part of the original master planning process in 2005 and was supported by the public in the master plan review in March 2014. This property will be converted to park space similar to two nearby properties purchased in 2007 and converted to green space. With only 54 acres of park land to serve over 52,000+ residents, the Park District continues to look for land acquisition opportunities to expand programs and services.
The Park District was eligible for this grant funding due to the successful passing of the “Renew Our Parks” referendum by Oak Park voters in April 2005. The local matching funds of $592,000 will come from the Park District of Oak Park’s Capital Improvement Budget. Since the 2006, the Park District has secured over $5.2 million in grant funds from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to renovate 10 District parks including the construction of the Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center.
In announcing the grant awards, Governor Pritzker stated “Investments in local park projects are good for families and recreation enthusiasts, helping them enjoy outdoor activities and making Illinois communities better places to live and work. Parks projects also boost local economic development efforts and spur additional investment throughout the state.”
“OSLAD grant funds allow the Park District to stretch local tax dollars to improve our parks and facilities,” Park District Executive Director Jan Arnold said upon learning of the grant award. “Grant monies from the State of Illinois have made a significant impact on the quality of life in our community. We are grateful for these grant awards and the recreation opportunities they afford the residents of Oak Park.”