NORTH PARK — You'd think a park with Hollywood in its name would have no problem getting people's attention, but this 7-acre gem is looking for a publicity boost.
"I want people to start talking about Hollywood Park," said Lenore Johnson, the new head of a revitalized Hollywood Park Advisory Council that's been dormant since spring.
Sandwiched between 24-acre Peterson Park to the west and 50-acre Legion Park to the east, Hollywood is the Rodney Dangerfield of North Park's green spaces, despite amenities that include baseball diamonds, basketball and tennis courts, and well-landscaped, shaded grounds.
Johnson and her "partner in crime," Liz Horvat, recruited a half-dozen neighbors from the 5800 block of Christiana Street, which forms the park's western boundary, to attend the advisory council's kickoff meeting last week.
"If we start doing things, people will start coming," said Johnson, a 20-year North Park resident.
The advisory council's short-term goal is to spread the word about the park's programming, which has expanded under the direction of supervisor Amanda Burke, at the helm since November 2011. Burke offers yoga, Pilates and Zumba classes for people of all ages and abilities.
"The building is open, a lot of people don't know that," she said of the field house, which is relatively large and includes a meeting room that can be rented for parties and events. "It's not just for kids — it's for adults, seniors, the community."
Long-term, Hollywood Park's primary mission will be to raise funds to replace its playground, which has become outdated, unsafe and unsanitary (referring to the wood chips), according to Burke. Depending on the scope of the remodel, the cost of a new playground can top $500,000, with advisory councils expected to pony up a third of that tab.
"I would like the playground to feel safer and cleaner," said Michelle Nickerson, the mother of a 3-year-old and a newcomer to Christiana Street. She said she prefers to stick closer to home rather than take her son to Peterson Park and believes a new playground would encourage others to follow suit.
"I'd like to meet more people on our block and in our neighborhood," she said.
Jonathan Silverstein of Ald. Margaret Laurino's 39th Ward Office provided some advice and perspective. He pointed to recent playground renovations at Gompers and Eugene Field parks as models to follow.
"They just worked their butts off," he said. "A lot of it is grassroots."
Before taking on a playground build, Johnson has her sights set on organizing an Easter egg hunt next spring and gradually working the advisory council up to raising funds for things like an air-conditioning unit and drinking fountain for the field house.
"We're all going to learn together," she said, "by baby steps."
The next meeting of the Hollywood Park Advisory Council is scheduled for Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m., at the park's field house.
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