Six area parks slated to get new playground equipment
by BRIAN NADIG
Six area parks are scheduled to receive new play equipment this year or next as part of the “Chicago Plays” program, while improvements to the dog area and fountains at Portage Park, 4100 N. Long Ave., are under way.
The parks scheduled to get new play equipment in 2013 are Kolmar, 4143 N. Kolmar Ave., Norwood, 5801 N. Natoma Ave., and North Mayfair, 4533 W. Carmen Ave., while the parks getting equipment the following year are Roberts Square, 5200 W. Argyle St., Thuis, 4759 N. Lavergne Ave., and Oriole, 5430 N. Olcott Ave.
Under the program, the Chicago Park District plans to pay for new play equipment at about 300 parks that have Fibar chips as a play surface over 5 years. Fibar looks similar to traditional woodchips but is a softer material.
The program is being administered with the Friends of the Parks and the Injury Free Coalition of Chicago. The order in which parks are chosen for the program is based in part on applications that park advisory councils and other community groups submit describing the needs of their park.
Friends of the Parks spokeswoman Maria Dmyterko Stone said that the program pays only for new play equipment and that the footprint of the playgrounds will not change. Residents will have input on the type of equipment that is installed, and in some instances popular structures in the playlot may remain and be refurbished if requested by residents, Stone said.
Some park councils have opted out of the program because they are raising funds for replacement of their playlot, including a new design and the installation of a soft surface and an underground drainage system. Stone said that the Edison Park Chamber of Commerce is raising funds for a Chicago Blackhawks-themed playground at Edison Park, 6755 N. Northwest Highway.
Roberts Square Park Advisory Council president John Riordan said that the council is interested in having the park’s existing swing set remain because newer sets have fewer swings. The council had been considering several other funding options for a new playground, which has a concrete base under the Fibar chips, Riordan said.
In its application for the program, the Roberts Square council submitted drawings by neighborhood children in which they depicted the items that they would like to see in a new playground. Applicants also were asked to submit a needs assessment survey, a petition with at least 50 signatures and a letter of support for their alderman.
At Portage Park, more than $300,000 in tax increment financing funds is being used to double the size of the dog run in the park, improve pool locker rooms and install a decorative fence and bushes around two fountains, Alderman Timothy Cullerton (38th) said.
The fountains, which are near the park entrance at Irving Park Road and Central Avenue, were installed 20 years ago, but they were closed off due to problems with people going into the water. The fence and bushes are designed to deter people from entering the fountains, Cullerton said.
The dog area will be closed during the construction there.
Also in the area, Alderman Nicholas Sposato (36th) held a ground-breaking ceremony on Monday for a new playground at Shabbona Park, 6935 W. Addison St.