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New Group Works to Improve Jefferson Park

By Heather Cherone | October 31, 2012 5:23pm
 Children and adults enjoy a warm fall afternoon at the Jefferson Park playground.
Children and adults enjoy a warm fall afternoon at the Jefferson Park playground.
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DNAInfo/Heather Cherone

JEFFERSON PARK — A new group is working to spruce up Jefferson Park and bring more community events there.

The Jefferson Park Advisory Council, which held its first meeting in October, wants to shape the future of the park by improving its buildings and fields and raising money to host free community events.

“Jefferson Park is such a great park,” said vice-president Frank Suerth. “It could be made much better.”

While the group is working on crafting a mission statement, among its top priorities is to begin raising money, council leaders said.

“We know the park district is strapped for money,” Suerth said. “We’d like to help with fundraising.”

The park needs more community events, perhaps including a series of concerts and movie nights during the summer, Suerth said.

“We want the community’s input on how the park should be improved,” said Cyd Smillie, the group’s treasurer.

Smillie said she would like to see the park district partner with local non-profit organizations to put on exhibitions and performances, like the staging of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at Wilson Park this past summer.

“We also want to clean up and monitor the park,” Smillie said, adding that the park’s trees require mulching and new playground equipment is needed.

Another priority of the group is to restore the 130-year-old arts and crafts building at the park. It was once home to Henry Esdohr, who was the area’s postmaster and the treasurer of the first township school board in state during the 19th century.

“If we don’t use it, we’re worried it will be torn down,” Suerth said, adding that the building once housed the first Jefferson Park public library.

Despite being vacant for many years, the roof is sound and the brickwork is in good shape, Suerth said. However, the house has no bathroom and needs ramps to make it accessible for people in wheelchairs, he added.

“It has a rich history, and should be restored, but we don’t want to use government money,” Suerth said.

The building’s first floor should be transformed into a community meeting space, where wine tastings and arts shows can be held, Suerth said.

The group is considering applying for some of 45th Ward Ald. John Arena’s $1.3 million discretionary fund, most of which will be awarded in the spring after a community vote.

To raise money, the advisory group has partnered with the Friends of Jefferson Park, which is already recognized as a tax-exempt organization.

The group’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Jefferson Park Fieldhouse, 4822 N. Long Ave.