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Plan for park changes a concern for neighbors : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Plan for park changes a concern for neighbors
Plan for park changes a concern for neighbors

by Lyle R. Rolfe


James Howell, a long-time resident of the unincorporated Shore Heights Subdivision off Ill. Route 31, told Oswegoland Park District Board members last week he and other subdivision residents are opposed to some of the proposed changes planned in Augusta Lake Park.

The five-acre park is surrounded by more than 20 single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums and apartments on the block bounded by Augusta Road, Kristen Street and Kevin Lane in Oswego Township.

The park district developed the park in 1993. It currently includes a small fishing lake, a handicapped accessible playground, wood pedestrian bridge across the lake, a crushed stone walking path that meanders through the park and circles the lake, and an open area for sports practices.

During a June 18 open house held at the park, Park District Director of Planning and Development Grant Casleton, Senior Park Planner Chad Feldotto, and Planning, Development and GIS Services Coordinator Nancy Hubbard Casleton spent two hours showing plans for the improvements and answering questions posed by residents who live by and use the park, many on a daily basis.

The proposed improvements would include paving the stone walking path with asphalt, adding a small picnic shelter with two tables on a paver surface, and replacing the present playground equipment with new, modern equipment that is handicapped accessible. A the wood chip playground surface will be replaced with a solid rubberized material, Casleton said.

The original wooden bridge that crosses the lake will be replaced with a steel bridge because the wood structure is showing age and starting to deteriorate. In addition, an accessible fishing pier with benches will be installed at the north end of the lake, he said.

The plans also include a half-court basketball facility for the younger children, according to Casleton.

But at last week's park board meeting, Howell said residents are objecting to having a half-court basketball facility and a covered pavilion added to the park. He said these items would attract older kids to the area who already stay in the park past the dusk closing time.

He gave the board a petition signed by 19 of 23 residents whose homes are adjacent to the park. All except four object to the basketball court and pavilion, he said. Two of the four were on vacation, one did not object, and the fourth homeowner is going through foreclosure, Howell said.

"The park is for the younger children. We're all for upgrading the track around the lake, and the playground equipment but that's our backyard so please don't invite people to come and congregate there at night," he said.

Most of the homeowners' yards surrounding the park are not fenced, he added.

Howell said he recently was sitting in his hot tub outside at about 11 p.m. and said he could hear young people talking in the park even though it is supposed to be closed.

"They were not real noisy, so I did not call police," he said.

They were sitting at the picnic tables by the playground which is where the pavilion will be located according to the plans.

A basketball court and covered pavilion will encourage them to stay later in the park, he said.

When asked about the kids there last week, Howell said they were older teens and they most likely live in apartments across from the park, he said.

"I've been there 22 years and haven't had a problem yet. And I want to make sure I don't," Howell added.

Board president Bob Mattingly asked whether the residents' objections would affect a grant the district is hoping to receive to pay for part of the work.

Rick Zielke, executive director, said a grants administrator visited the park and noted that the proposed plans have good recreational components-the basketball court, walking trail, fishing, and the playground.

Feldotto said they included the basketball court to make it the same as the district's other neighborhood parks. None of the courts are lighted because the parks should close at dusk, he said, adding that the half-courts have not caused problems in the other parks.

"And the pavilion will just be a roof over the picnic tables. It won't be like a room and there won't be any walls to enclose the tables," he said.

Zielke said changing the plans could have an affect on receiving the grant.

If the state makes an announcement on the grant it probably would be in September. The governor would then be expected to announce who gets grants between January and July of next year.

The grant will be an OSLAD (Open Space and Land Development Grant) through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

Casleton estimated the cost of the proposed improvements at $400,000. If the project is approved, the state would pay up to 50 percent of the costs or $200,000.

The grant application has been filed but district officials will not know if it is approved until next year. If approved the project would be completed in 2015.

"If we don't get the grant we'll still do the playground and I'd like to replace the bridge next year too. That's in our budget for next year, but the other items won't be done at that time," Casleton added.

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