1/2/2013 3:07:00 AM Braidwood Park District
aims for safer parks,
Marney Simon Staff writer
One of the biggest attractions of any municipality is what type of park and recreational facilities are offered. In Braidwood, the park district is small and gets by on limited tax dollars. However, the elected members of the district's governing board work hard to make sure that the city's three public parks have much to offer.
In 2012, the park district members worked diligently with the Braidwood Police Department to keep illegal activity out of its parks. Park board member Josh Bolatto said that things have gotten better in the cooperative effort to fight criminal activity in or near parks.
"We've really taken a proactive approach when it comes to addressing any issues or concerns when they arise," Bolatto said. "Whenever our district or the police department receives a complaint it is addressed, investigated or taken care of right away. Thanks to that approach we have seen a decrease in unwanted activity."
Bolatto said the police department has increased their patrol and presence in and around the parks, and has assisted the board in handling complaints.
"We're planning on maintaining this proactive approach in the coming year," Bolatto noted.
Bolatto said there was still hope that legislation proposed in the Illinois Legislature could help fight the instances of illegal drugs at parks all around the state. Last February, Senate Bill 3582, entitled "Cannabis - Public Parks" was introduced in the state senate by State Senator Sue Rezin. The proposal would create stiffer penalties for anyone caught with illegal drugs in public parks, similar to tough penalties that are enforced in school zones. The bill stalled in committee, however.
Bolatto said the park district board plans to continue working with Senator Rezin's office and the Illinois Association of Park Districts in 2013, in an attempt to get the ball rolling again and get the bill passed.
Meanwhile, the board spent much of the year working on various upgrades and other projects. In 2012, the district installed electrical service to the landscaping and island located in the south parking lot at City Park. That service allowed the district to put a spot light on the Old Smokey welcome sign, and Christmas lights on the trees that sit in the island.
Other electrical upgrades included the evaluation, inspection and repairs of the pavilions and in the Old Smokey Administration building. The baseball field dugouts and concession stand also got a facelift thanks to the volunteers with the Braidwood Baseball/Softball Association (BBSA). The dugouts got new roofs and the concession stand got new metal siding and an interior overhaul.
Items on the agenda for 2013 for the park district include:
Lighting Upgrade - The park district will get started on installing additional security lighting around Old Smokey park in the Spring. The district will be able to add lights thanks to a donation of utility poles and lights from the city of Braidwood. The lights will help light up areas of the park that are dark at night.
Equipment replacement - The board recently declared several pieces of old and obsolete equipment as surplus property, which allows them to be sold. The district hopes to take the money from those sales and put it toward new equipment.
Kiddie Park and Goodrich Park play areas - Plans are set to spruce up the two parks a bit, and the district as also been exploring options for new or additional playground equipment.
Community outreach - Bolatto said the board hopes to continue partnering with various groups and organizations to provide events and activities throughout the year, such as the Family Fun Nights done with the cooperation of the Reed-Custer parent's group, FORCES.
"All of our board members agree that we would like to do more for the community in the way of services, activities, events and programs," Bolatto said. "We will continue to look for different ways to accomplish this goal. We would love to build a community center out here where we could do these types of things but, just like many other business and government entities, budget issues is our biggest barrier. We'll continue to look for various options and ways to hopefully one day make this goal a reality."
Overall, Bolatto said the board members were happy with how operations ran in 2012.
"We've had a great year overall," Bolatto noted, adding that the parks are run by both the board and the members of the public who lend a helping hand. "A huge thank you to all the volunteers who have helped us to make the parks a great place to visit."