The Illinois Park & Recreation Association announced the Park Ridge Park District’s Prospect Park is the winner of the Outstanding Facility & Park Award. The purpose of the Outstanding Facility & Park Award is to recognize public agencies for their exceptional and unique achievements in design and development.
“We are honored to be presented with this distinction by park and recreational professionals from across the State of Illinois. Prospect Park is award winning due to the efforts of the Park Board, staff, and the community all working together to create this multi-use park,” said Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle. “Every amenity of Prospect Park was well thought out and determined by community input and need. We are proud to offer this exceptional park to the Park Ridge residents.”
Prospect Park opened to the public in May 2016. Located at 733 N. Prospect Ave., Prospect Park is the first new park in the District since 1985, adding 11.35 acres. Residents supported the purchase and development of the Park with a $13.2M referendum. Two grants were also obtained for use on the property through a competitive process at the state and federal level, a $750,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund grant (LAWCF) and a $400,000 Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Program grant (OSLAD). Additionally, Park Ridge resident, Paula Hassell O’Connor donated $500,000 towards the development of the multipurpose building located on the site and now named in her honor, the Paula Hassell O’Connor Community Building.
The addition of Prospect Park allowed the Park Ridge Park District to gain much needed open space, as well as preserve the history of the property, which was previously The Youth Campus. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places when acquired by the Park District. The history of the property goes back over a century and the distinction placed restrictions on which of the twelve buildings inherited on the site were able to be removed by the District. Ultimately, the mix of historic preservation and new amenities give the park a distinct place in Park Ridge. Another unique opportunity the property presented is the partnership between the Park District and the Park Ridge Historical Society who now occupies Solomon Cottage through a financial and usage agreement with the Park District. Solomon Cottage is the oldest building on the property, built in 1908, and it, along with Wohlers Hall and Emery Cottage, has obtained landmark status by the City of Park Ridge Historic Preservation Commission.
While the primary purpose of the acquisition of the property was to preserve green space, it also allowed the District to expand programming, not only in the new spaces at the park, but also in the former administrative staff spaces of the Maine Park Leisure Center. Administrative staff is now located at Wohlers Hall and Haake buildings, relocating fifteen staff, I.T. systems, and the Board Room from Maine Park. Wohlers Hall was used as an Administrative Building when owned by the Youth Campus. Moving the Administrative staff freed up much needed programming space at Maine Park. Indoor programming space has not been expanded at the District since 1992 when the Community Center was added.
Since opening, the Prospect Park has seen a flurry of activity. Hundreds of private rentals have been held in the Community Building. The Community Building has also housed many activities including: camps, early childhood programs, special events, and community input meetings for other projects. The walking path is enjoyed daily by many residents and their dogs. The property also has a picnic grove that can be rented. The Splash Pad has seen great attendance and continues to grow, generating $25,873 in daily admissions in 2017. Additionally, summer pool pass sales (which includes admission to the Splash Pad) increased by 1,000 passes since Prospect Park opened. The athletic field opened in fall 2017, and is utilized to accommodate the growing number of flag-football players and lacrosse players. The outdoor Performing Arts Area was programmed with a free family concerts series this summer as well as camp performances. The playground built by community volunteers prior to the Park District acquiring the property was re-located in the park and will be expanded in 2018, thanks to the $400,000 OSLAD grant, with additional equipment for ages 5-12.
Thoughtful planning and community support has resulted in a new, award-winning park in Park Ridge.