WEST TOWN — Good news is on the horizon for local parks, announced Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), whose ward will see four playground makeovers by July 2014.
Chicago Plays, a Chicago Park District initiative that aims to replace 50 playgrounds a year over the next five years, has selected playlots in West Town, East Village and Ukrainian Village after a process that required petitions, a letter of support from local aldermen and a report on the condition of the playground.
The four 1st Ward parks that will receive renovations include Monticello Playlot Park at 1814 N. Monticello Ave. in Logan Square; Snowberry Playlot Park at 1851-55 W. Huron St. in East Village; Superior Playlot Park at 2101 W. Superior St. in West Town; and Western Park at 907 N. Western Ave. in Ukrainian Village.
Taylor Feldman, 25, a nanny, was playing with her 1-year-old client, Levi, around 3 p.m. Monday at Snowberry playlot.
Feldman said "the slide is outdated" at the playlot and wondered if there will be cover or shade over the equipment, as there is at other nearby parks, once the renovations are done.
While Feldman and several parents polled almost unanimously said they "don't like wood chips," Kevin Marks, 36, who was playing with his 2-year-old son, Harvey, at Western Park said he doesn't mind wood chips covering the ground.
"That's what I grew up with," Marks said.
Marks said Western Park's swings — which accommodate only infants in safety seats and not older kids — are "really creaky and loud," but he figures that could "easily be fixed with lubrication."
Marks added that "the park is really not in that bad of shape", and he hasn't noticed any "jagged edges that could hurt or maim" his son.
Meanwhile at Superior playlot in West Town, parent Katherine Gill described the equipment as "outdated and quite dangerous," and pointed out several examples of broken metal flooring on a jungle gym that could cause cuts if tripped or fallen on.
Gill, a stay-at-home mom, said she feels uncomfortable letting her 18-month-old son roam over wood chips that are "not that conducive to the little guys."
Ronda Locke, a president of the volunteer-run Commercial Park Advisory Council, which submitted and received grants for three area park renovations, posted the news of the renovations on the East Village Association blog Monday.
Locke said her group is "waiting for details," but from her understanding, Moreno is "willing to kick in and help completely redo Superior or Snowberry, and just secured approval to move one of these forward."
Moreno expressed an interest in getting community input into what new equipment is wanted, so the projects are at the very front of the process, Locke wrote.
Eric Sherman, a staffer in Moreno's office said, "We know [the four parks] have been selected for renovation but details of dates and design are not set in stone."
Sherman said now that the program is approved, the Friends of the Park will manage outreach and community engagement because "a big part of planning is getting the community involved."
Tim Jeffries, a spokesman from Friends of the Park, said, "The community will have an opportunity to select between two playground designs; those that are slated for redevelopment this year have already made their choice, while those that will be rebuilt in late autumn or early spring will select sometime in the near future. We do not as yet have a timeline for those selections though."
Jeffries said the playground equipment at the parks selected for renovations "will be rebuilt from the ground up" and added that the Chicago Plays program is limited to just playground equipment so "things like lighting upgrades or the installation of other amenities like water fountains are not covered."
Additionally, "none of these playgrounds will be fitted with poured in place soft surfacing (rubber-like substance), but will have wood engineered fiber (a very specific wood product)," Jeffries wrote.
Another park under the Commercial Park Advisory jurisdiction is Honore Park at 916 N. Honore St., which is also tapped for improvements under the Chicago Plays! program and falls in Ald. Bob Fioretti’s 2nd Ward, Locke said.