District takes opinions about Friends Park
Friends Park in Glencoe will be renovated by the village. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
See this story at glencoe.suntimes.com for extras, including schematics of the park
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:10AM
GLENCOE — Rebuilding Friends Park with a theater theme, with a shelter that doubles as a stage for kids or visiting performers from the next-door Writers’ Theatre, appealed to a small group of residents at a recent park district committee hearing.
But don’t plan any sand dances there.
The theme idea, which sprung from an audience comment, was never fleshed out Dec. 3. But another concept was easily understood by all.
Almost everybody in the audience was very sure that they didn’t want sand or wood mulch anywhere that wheelchairs or strollers might travel. They much preferred more tractable – and more expensive – rubberized surfaces.
They weren’t alone: in a recent survey, the ubiquitous presence of Friends Park sand was decried by one person after another, including two Nov. 29 respondents:
“Always hated the sand. Sand is for the beach. Always had to change their diapers, take shoes off and dump the sand out. Sometimes I didn’t take them because of the sand.” ... “Anything but sand, please. It is impossible to push a baby carriage in sand when you have more than one child. And the kids come home dirty, like coal miners.”
A couple of concepts sketched by consultant RGC Design – apparently too early to heed the survey – had both stroller-stalling mulch and a big sandbox that effectively blocked wheeled movement between the north and south sides of the park. The sand could be avoided only by taking a relatively long walk or cutting through the shelter.
Carole Rosen said she has a handicapped daughter and an abled son. “It puts us in a position that we cannot function as a family.
“I can’t bring my daughter with my son because there’s nothing she can do.”
She encouraged commissioners to think in terms of families with “multiple children, not just a child in a wheelchair.”
She and other parents with less-abled children made their case for handicapped and wheel-chair swings, and their thoughts were welcomed by commissioners.
“I’m with you,” said Commissioner Hilary Lee.
“Forget the ADA,” resident Bob Footlik said, meaning that the entire park should be a mix of uses where options for the less abled were at every corner. In agreement was Nancy Meyer, a former Evanston resident who helped raise $500,000 for Noah’s Playground for Everyone. That Evanston park is not only accessible, but it has sight-and-sound accessories for those who need such stimulation, as well as quiet areas, for sensitive autistic youths.
Also in agreement was Nitza Zisook, who led the 1995 $85,000 fundraising effort for Friends Park.
The likelihood of successful fundraising this time is hard to gauge.
The survey queried the 141 respondents about whether they would “be interested in contributing to a Friends of the Friends Park donation drive.” A dozen checked Yes; one said “Maybe, please call me;” 40 said “Please send me information” and 65 said “Not at this time.”
The current estimated cost for the job is $160,000 to $180,000, with next year’s budget still to be completed.
Waiting a long time for fundraising does not seem to be an option. The three big slide/stairs/platform apparatuses that dominated the signature uptown park for decades became rotten and untrustworthy, and were all razed this fall. All that’s left are a few small playground amenities scattered around a vacant expanse of sand.
The district hopes to get more community input at its 7 p.m. Dec. 17 committee meeting at the Takiff Center, 999 Green Bay Road.
The triple-kidney-bean outline of the park’s play areas is not expected to change. The main difference in landscaping is expected to be the removal of a stand of three big evergreen trees near the center of the park.
That might help answer complaints that the current play area has blind spots. Parents and nannies complain they can’t keep track of toddlers and older kids at the same time.
Audience members and survey respondents said they liked the old train playground toy as well as swings. But at the meeting, little was said about more challenging apparatus.
The district staff’s packet included materials for commissioners and residents about the value of a little bit of playground risk for child development. The discussion, however, was mostly about accessibility, and never dwelled on climbing walls, monkey bars and cargo nets.