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Audubon School Envisions Its Own Field of Dreams

 The proposed Village Schoolyard will be a playground and park for all of Roscoe Village.
Audubon Playground
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ROSCOE VILLAGE — No mysterious "If you build it, they will come" voices spoke to Stacy Mytty, urging her to lobby for a new playground and park at Audubon Elementary School.

Instead, her actions were spurred by the scores of injuries — including two broken bones in the past six months — suffered by students using the playground.

"Someone sprained their ankle just last week," said the mother of four and vice president of Friends of Audubon, the school's fundraising arm.

"Our kids play with rocks on our playground," she said. "That's not appropriate."

Safety issues and an overall lack of green space at Audubon and in the surrounding neighborhood led Mytty to marshal her forces, including Roscoe Village Neighbors, in a bid for a revamped play space. Her efforts culminated in a recent public meeting seeking design input on what's been dubbed the Village Schoolyard Field of Dreams.

A preliminary design provided by Chicago Public Schools depicted rudimentary blocks of space where a new playground and turf field would go.

"You need a vision. This isn't it," said Kevin Clark, vice president of the Lakota Group, which specializes in landscape architecture and urban design.

Mytty brought in Clark, a neighborhood resident, to consult on the project, in large part because of the role he played in redesigning the grounds at Waters Elementary.

"I see this as more of a park in the middle of Roscoe Village as opposed to just a playground space," Clark said.

"There's a community here, it's a gathering place. There are older people in the neighborhood who just want to go somewhere nice to sit," he said.

The public forum was an opportunity for residents to express what they'd like to see in the playground park — native plants, rain garden, an outdoor classroom, etc.

"These are just ideas. Nothing's been planned except for turf and a playground," Clark said. "Think about this as a blank slate."

Once she's gathered feedback — surveys were handed out at the meeting — Mytty will revisit the proposal with CPS for a more detailed cost estimate. The playground and turf alone carry a price tag of $780,000.

Mytty is already researching potential grants and has a number of fundraising efforts in place.

She's set an ambitious goal of $150,000 for a "buy a brick" campaign — that's 600 engraved bricks at $250 a pop — and $50,000 for a fitness challenge scheduled for June 1.

"It's not going to be a walk in the park," she said.

Neighborhood outreach days have been planned for May 10, 14, 15 and 16 to spread the word about Village Schoolyard. Audubon parents, students and members of the community will go door to door collecting pledges and providing information about the project.

Mytty points out that assistance and interest is coming from all corners of Roscoe Village, not just families with students at Audubon. The brick campaign and marketing efforts are being led by folks who are "just neighbors," she said.

"Everyone is so excited," Mytty said. "It's so contagious."