RAVENSWOOD — Gov. Pat Quinn came to Ravenswood Elementary on Saturday to tout a $750,000 state grant that will help the school build a new playground, but it was Mayor Rahm Emanuel's surprise announcement that the city would kick in $350,000 toward the outdoor campus that drew the largest cheers.
"There's no part of your dream that can not be realized," said Emanuel.
In September, Ravenswood's plan for a "Green Not Gray" playground — developed by students, parents and community members — was one of 13 projects chosen by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to receive a green infrastructure grant as part of a storm water management program.
On top of the state monies, Ravenswood had already banked $200,000 toward a playground renovation, and Ald. Ameya Pawar committed funds from the 47th Ward. Still the school was short of its $1.5 million goal, and staring down a daunting fundraising effort.
The $350,000 from the city plugs that gap.
The mayor noted that he lives a block from the school and that the play space, while primarily used by Ravenswood students, becomes a "playground for the neighborhood on weekends," especially for "Saturday dads" like himself.
"We want it to be a beautiful, engaging spot for the whole neighborhood," said Wendy Vasquez, co-chair of the fundraising group Friends of Ravenswood School.
Presently, the school's concrete play area turns into "Lake Ravenswood" following any significant rain.
The new playground will incorporate a number of features intended to manage storm water: more than 15,000 square feet of porous pavement with accompanying underground storm water storage; 6,500 square feet of rain gardens; 4,000-gallon cisterns to collect rainwater to use for irrigation; downspouts to direct roof runoff to the rain gardens; and 27 new trees to provide shade and increase rainwater uptake, supplementing 16 existing trees.
"You're going to see less localized flooding," said Pawar. "It's amazing what people can do when they rally around a neighborhood school."