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Kolmar, Mayfair and Ronan Parks Hit the Chicago Plays! Jackpot

Kolmar Park Chicago Plays! Video
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Owen Bloomfield

IRVING PARK — For years, Kolmar Park has been falling through the cracks, literally and figuratively.

Now Kolmar, 4143 N. Kolmar Ave., is in line for a playground makeover through the Chicago Park District's Chicago Plays! initiative.

"This is going to be huge for us," said Cecile Bloomfield, who prepared the park's Chicago Plays! application. "We're thrilled."

Bloomfield is one of a core group of volunteers who've formed a unofficial advisory council at Kolmar — the lone park district green space in Old Irving Park — planting flowers, weeding, spreading mulch and holding the occasional ice cream social.

"We've tried to keep it a park the neighborhood wants to go to," she said.

 Ronan Park in Albany Park is among those chosen by Chicago Plays! to receive a playground upgrade.
Ronan Park
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Despite the group's best efforts, Kolmar has experienced a "general slow demise," Bloomfield said. Broken equipment, cracked pavement and other signs of neglect are "not really a reflection of our community."

Groups seeking funding for a playground makeover through Chicago Plays!, which aims to replace 50 playgrounds a year over the next five years, needed to collect at least 50 petition signatures, a letter of support from their alderman and provide a conditions report and community impact statement.

Kolmar volunteers exceeded all requirements, scoring more than 80 signatures, obtaining letters from two aldermen and submitting a video of the park's conditions.

"They want to know if they're going to invest in the park that neighbors are going to help maintain it," Bloomfield said. "I think that gave us a slight leg up. We have an active group, we are willing to rise up."

For typical playground renovations, the park district foots a third of the bill, which can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with the remainder split between the local alderman's office and private interests such as park advisory councils. The good news for Kolmar and other chosen parks is that Chicago Plays! is picking up the entire tab, through the park district's capital budget.

"We were never going to make the big bucks," Bloomfield said, adding that previous fundraising efforts typically netted less than $500.

Also receiving the good word from Chicago Plays! were Mayfair Park, 4550 W. Sunnyside Ave., and Ronan Park, 3000 W. Argyle St. Construction at Mayfair and Kolmar will take place in the fall, with the rehab of Ronan slated for 2014.

The money comes with a few strings attached.

Parks will select playground equipment and designs from one of two standard options for small, medium and large play lots. The surface for the playgrounds will be uniformly Fibar, a soft, engineered product that resembles wood chips, said Maria Stone of Friends of the Parks, which partnered with the park district for Chicago Plays!.

"You're accepting you're not going to get a complete overhaul," said Bloomfield. "It's better to get something than nothing, and right now we're getting nothing."