A group of 25 community leaders and concerned citizens met Tuesday to have one last discussion about the planned renovation of the Wheeling Park District's Heritage Park as part of a $31 million project to limit Des Plaines River flooding.
"If you didn't know it was a flood control project, you might think it was just a nice recreation project," said Lawrence Raffel, superintendent of planning for the park district, while addressing the crowd.
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Citizens from the neighborhoods surrounding the park came to see the final plan and to see how close the new parking lot would be to their homes.
"It's going to impact the cost of our houses," said Paul Watts of Wheeling. "It's not going to help it, but it will be good for a lot of people."
Watts's home on Jeffry backs up to where the new parking lot with more than 100 spaces on the south side of the park will go.
In addition to more parking, the plan calls four new centrally located baseball diamonds, synthetic turf fields, a concession stand, a band shell and new walking paths to encircle the entire park.
The park district is financing the renovations with funds from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago because the park's redesign also plans for seven areas in the park to be used to house stormwater runoff from the Des Plaines River. The runoff areas are needed to prevent flooding in the surrounding neighborhoods as well as further downstream in Prospect Heights.
The planning process to revamp the park started two years ago. On July 18, it will go before the Wheeling Village Board for plan approval. If all goes according to plan, the bidding process will take place from November to December and construction will take place from May 2012 to December 2013.
"During the construction phase, it's going to be trying, but in the end it's going to be worth it," said Jan Buchs, park district executive director.
While the park is under construction, the park district will move activities that are now housed at Heritage Park to its other facilities, including Mark Twain Elementary School, Holmes Middle School, Wheeling High School's new turf football field and Horizon Park, among others.
"We're helping our neighbors downstream and hopefully our neighbors in Wheeling too," said Brian Lichtenberger, vice president of the park district board. "It certainly adds to the recreation and interaction value of our town."