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updated: 7/29/2012 6:09 PM

West Chicago reopens storm-damaged Reed-Keppler Park

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The West Chicago Park District reopened the south end of Reed-Keppler Park Friday, nearly four weeks after a July 1 storm pummeled parts of DuPage and Cook counties.

West Chicago was among the hardest-hit areas in the storm that caused roughly $3.1 million damage throughout DuPage County. Park officials earlier this month estimated damage near $305,000 throughout their system, while West Chicago leaders said damage and cleanup on city property totaled about $487,000.

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Parks Superintendent Jesse Felix called the storm damage "amazing."

"I've been doing this work for about 38 years and this is the worst I've ever seen from a storm," Felix said.

In cleaning up Reed-Keppler, an 84-acre park at National and Arbor streets, officials said clearing branches and debris for public safety was a top priority, along with saving trees.

The 79-year-old park is the city's oldest and the site for many large annual events, such as Railroad Days. Felix said crews immediately focused on Reed-Keppler for that reason, especially since Railroad Days attracts thousands annually and was scheduled two weeks after the storm.

Railroad Days went off as scheduled in the north end of the park.

"I'm really proud of my staff and the contractors," Felix said. "They stuck with us."

The quick cleanup at Reed-Keppler was due in part to help from other park districts, including Arlington Heights, Bolingbrook, Huntley, Streamwood and Woodridge, Felix said. Each provided manpower, equipment, or both, some for five days at a time.

Now crews will turn their attention to other parks that sustained storm damage, including Kress Creek and Hampton Hills.

The park district has lost roughly 200 trees, Felix said. To replace them, Friends of West Chicago Parks Foundation has established a fund. Tax-deductible donations to replenish the trees are being accepted in any denomination.

The replanting effort will also include efforts to diversify West Chicago's tree population, to avoid problems happening statewide with the Emerald Ash borer.

For details, call (630) 231-9474 or visit we-goparks.org.

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