Construction gets under way on playlot at Hiawatha Park


Construction of a new playground at Hiawatha Park, 8029 W. Forest Preserve Drive, is under way and the playlot could be completed in time for the Fourth of July holiday, according to Alderman Nicholas Sposato (36th).

Sposato said that the Chicago Park District will fund half of the $550,000 project cost and the remaining portion would come from his "aldermanic menu" funds.

Last year work was completed to replace the 25-year-old playground at Shabbona Park, 6935 W. Addison St., and $180,000 came from Sposato’s menu funds, $350,000 came from funding secured by state Representative Luis Arroyo (D-3) and the remaining portion came from area residents.

"We secured a lot of the funding last year for Shabbona, and I think that the park district cut us some slack for this one," Sposato said.

The playground at Hiawatha will feature new benches and tables, a clubhouse, a tire swing, two belt swings, an infant swing, a handicapped swing, a splash pad water feature, a drinking fountain, landscaping, rubberized surfaces, a structure with play mounds and new fencing.

Sposato said that he was surprised how quickly the process moved to the construction phase. "We started in the fall and by April we had a contractor who wanted to get to work," he said.

"We received two proposals from the park district, and we decided to go with the first concept but the color scheme from the second concept," Sposato said. "I wanted to put in more swings but the park district said that kids don’t play on swings any more, but one of these structures that are even hard to describe . . . we were able to get four swings and a tire swing."

"We are exited to have new playgrounds for the children to play on and that we could do something nice for the people here in this current ward," Sposato said. The park will be a part of the 38th Ward under the new city ward map that takes effect next year.

The 12-acre Hiawatha Park opened to the public in 1958, and a fieldhouse was added later, according to the park district. The name was chosen by area residents in honor of an Onandaga Indian chief who formed the League of Five nations, the Iroquois confederation, and who was mythologized by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in "The Song of Hiawatha."

Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Park District and the Friends of the Parks have announced that 103 playgrounds will be rehabbed this year as part of the "Chicago Plays" program.

"Not only are we making significant investments in safe places for our children to play, we’re actually ahead of schedule and will be halfway to our 5-year goal in just 2 years," Emanuel said.

Under the program, the park district plans to pay for new equipment at about 325 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 will install approximately $125,000 in new playground equipment at each park location for a total program cost of $37,500,000.

Work also is planned at Riis Park, 6120 W. Fullerton Ave.

Parks that will be repaired this year include Brooks Park, 7100 N. Harlem Ave., Chopin Park, 3420 N. Long Ave., Cragin Park, 2611 N. Lockwood Ave., DeJulio Park, 6056 N. Landers Ave., and Edison Park, 6755 N. Northwest Hwy.

Also, Grandparents’ Park, 5445 N. Chester Ave., Green Park, 6500 N. Algonquin Ave., Kelvyn Park, 4438 W. Wrightwood Ave., Monument Park, 6700 N. Avondale Ave., Oriole Park, 5430 N. Wolcott Ave., Park-View Park, 3823 W. School St., and Summerdale Park, 7262 W. Summerdale Ave.