(CBS) — The state of Illinois Saturday awarded grants totaling $16.5 million to 46 park and playground projects statewide, including 29 in the six-county region.
The 46 were chosen from among hundreds of applications from park and recreation programs big and small throughout Illinois.
The Chicago Park District alone submitted close to 100 proposals. Two were chosen for grants. One is Walsh Park, at 1722 N. Ashland Av., at the eastern end of the three-mile-long, near North Side Bloomingdale Trail, a former railroad right-of-way that is being redeveloped into a linear park for joggers and bicyclists.
Chicago Park District General Supt. Michael Kelly said the entire park will be refurbished; it will have basketball hoops, a playground, an athletic field and a dog-friendly area.
The other park has no formal name yet. It’s what’s known now as Park 564, and spreads across 685 acres of former steel mill property at 110th Street and Stony Island Avenue.
Kelly said the plan is to develop a trail for joggers and bicyclists and to redevelop the wetlands habitat in the area, also known as Big Marsh.
A number of the proposals being funded in collar-county communities display creativity.
Virtually every community has parks, but few have parks designed specially for those with disabilities. That’s what South Elgin Parks and Recreation Director Jim Reuter hopes to achieve with SEBA Park, on the Fox River just south of village hall.
“We’re looking at this as more of a regional project than a local (project),” he said. “Of course, it’s right in our downtown, which is going to help, but we really think people are going to come a long way.”
The $400,000 state grant matches what’s been raised from private donors locally. The equipment is being assembled in stages. South Elgin “I Am Able” project Chair Karen Cluchey said that the village already has purchased one piece known as a “Sway Fun,” which works like a giant swing, and can accommodate children in wheelchairs and entire families. It arrived just in time for last summer’s “Special Night for Special Children,” which kicks off its annual Riverfest Express carnival.
“We had a gentleman with his daughter, who was disabled in a wheelchair, and he pushed her up into the Sway Fun and was going to leave her sitting there, and we said, ‘No, no. This is for the entire family,’ so he sat up there with her.”
She said what happened next was special.
“We started the rocking motion for both of them and this child’s face just lit up,” Cluchey said. “She was completely non-verbal but we knew it was an experience that they’d never had before.”
The projects are financed through the state’s Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development program, which is administered by the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources. Agencies receiving the grants must match them.
Grants have been awarded each year since 1986. It is funded through the Real Estate Transfer Tax, which is part of every property sale in Illinois.