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updated: 7/12/2012 1:55 PM

Vote now: Prospect Hts. park in line to win grant money

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  • Signs throughout the Prospect Heights Park District building, including this one at the front desk that changes colors, remind residents to vote.

       Signs throughout the Prospect Heights Park District building, including this one at the front desk that changes colors, remind residents to vote.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • If Lions Park wins the $100,000 it will be used for "programs and park enhancements," says the park district's executive director.

       If Lions Park wins the $100,000 it will be used for "programs and park enhancements," says the park district's executive director.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • You can't go into Lions Park without being reminded to vote -- and the voting closes Sunday.

       You can't go into Lions Park without being reminded to vote -- and the voting closes Sunday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
By Anna Boratyn
aboratyn@dailyherald.com

Lions Park in Prospect Heights is inching up in the online contest to be named "America's Favorite Park" -- in 24 hours it has gone from 31st to 29th.

That's impressive, but not good enough for the Prospect Heights Park District, and the competition, called "America is Your Park" ends Sunday.

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The contest is run annually by Coca-Cola. Only one park will receive the title of "America's Favorite Park," and the $100,000 top prize, but recreation grants of $50,000 and $25,000 will be given to the second and third place finishers, respectively.

One park that finishes between 4th to 25th on the leader board will be chosen at random to receive $15,000.

Finishing in the top 25 is the goal of the Prospect Heights Park District. As of Thursday morning, Lions Park had 176,514 votes, while the park currently in 25th, Shelby Bottoms Park and Nature Center in Nashville, had 251,267 votes.

At the top of the leader board is Pratt Park in Prattville, Ala., with 24.4 million votes.

An updated number of votes, and the tools to vote can be found on livepositively.com/parks. The winner is decided by the number of virtual votes, with additions of 100 votes for each "check in" to a park using foursquare.

Prospect Heights Park District Executive Director Kathy Nowicki found out about the program through an email from the National Parks and Recreation Association, and Prospect Heights began competing on May 23. Prospect Heights is the only suburban Chicago park promoting, advertising and seriously competing.

"If we won, the money would be used on programs and park enhancement," Nowicki said, though she admits that it has been fun simply motivating people to vote. Nowicki says she votes at least 20 times a day -- there is no limit to how many times voters can vote.

According to Coca-Cola Public Affairs and Communications Manager Morris Smith, Coca-Cola's motivation behind the project is to provide much-needed funding for parks to help people be active in the community.

So far, Smith believes the project has been successful. Last year, Coca-Cola saw 13 million people cast votes for their favorite parks. Oak Park in Minot, N.D. won the title of "America's Favorite Park" and a $100,000 prize. The park had suffered from flood damage, which the prize money was able to repair.

"If you look at the economy and the lack of funding because of budget cuts, it's important that we give back to the community and engage people in their communities," Smith said.

Coca-Cola and its philanthropic arm, the Coca-Cola Foundation, has become known for its championship of education, community recycling and healthy living.

According to Smith, Coca-Cola spearheads these projects to support communities.

"Anything from schools to parks can engage the community and make a difference," Smith said.

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