City Council approved a three-year proposed capital spending plan for parks and facilities at its June 22 meeting. The plan covers only projects that would be funded through the issuance of general obligation (GO) bonds in fiscal years 2016-18, said Deputy City Manager Erika Storlie. It does not address infrastructure improvement, projects funded by Parking or Community Development Block Grant funds or any 2015 projects carried over into fiscal year 2016.

Staff from Public Works, Administrative Services and Parks, Recreation and Community Service reviewed the capital needs of all parks and facilities and “prioritized them for the next three years to create the proposed plan,” said Ms. Storlie.

Among the criteria for prioritization were safety, the ability to group projects together, the overall condition of a park or facility and the intensity of use, she said. One change made to the original proposal was to drop the proposed renovation of the fog houses at the Grosse Point lighthouse, she added.

The City received community input during the Parks and Recreation Board meeting and through a survey conducted by phone and available on line. Respondents “overwhelmingly” supported continuing with the Robert Crown Center and also prioritized maintaining the recreation centers.

Ms. Storlie said the City’s Parks and Recreation Board reviewed the proposed plan at their May meeting. The members approved only the first year, for about $4 million, because the board thought it was important to have decisions on Penny Park and the Harley Clarke mansion, a set location for a synthetic turf field and a master plan for improvements at James Park, “as well as continuing discussion about Grey Park and the Robert Crown Center project, prior to finalizing future years.”  

Parks and Recreation Board member Dave Campbell said the board “didn’t really have a good understanding of capital expenditures [which generally improve or enhance the facility] as compared to expenditures for maintenance. For example, with James Park, we wanted to be clear about what those expenditures looked like and how they fit in with overall plans. … I think we need a little more information.”

Among the projects proposed for 2016 are replacing the gym floor at Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, designing the new or rehabbed Robert Crown Center, resurfacing the outdoor basketball courts at Mason Park, renovating the Lovelace Park pond, removing the windmill at the Ladd Arboretum and renovating the restrooms and fixtures at Greenwood and Lee Street beaches.

“This is not the extent of our capital needs for parks in the City of Evanston,” said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. “They are vast.  … The reality is a really small portion, we feel, is worth being added to our capital debt. … I think the quandary we face as a community is that all [parks and facilities] have many needs.”

Mr. Bobkiewicz said that City staff would prefer approval of the three-year plan, but approving the plan for one year “is a good start. … I think there is a fundamental disconnect between the plan and being able to pay for the improvements.”

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said her priority is the Robert Crown Center.

The Council unanimously accepted the proposed plan, with its three years of capital projects but only one year of estimated costs.

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...