A century-old park in Glen Ellyn, including a historic boathouse constructed as part of the New Deal-era Works Progress Administration, could soon be in line for improvements intended to preserve it for the future.
The Glen Ellyn Park District board of commissioners on Tuesday voted 6-1 to approve a 75-page master plan for Lake Ellyn Park, north of the village's downtown and Glenbard West High School. The document provides recommendations for upgrades to the boathouse, trails, landscaping, recreational uses, and the water quality of the 10-acre lake itself.
Last year, the park district hired Conservation Design Forum, an ecological design firm, and Farr Associates, an architectural design firm, to develop the master plan. Tuesday's park board approval of the plan follows seven months of meetings with residents and stakeholders.
David Yocca, the principal landscape architect/planner with CDF, said the document is intended to serve as a tool for park district staff and board members to guide upcoming design, funding and use decisions about the park.
"The way we look at a master plan is a means to an end. It's a point of beginning," Yocca said.
In total, the plan recommends some $6 million to $12 million worth of improvements, with initial cost estimates for so-called "first priority" upgrades between $1.2 million to $1.9 million. Park board President Melissa Creech said there will be future discussions about implementation of specific projects and how to fund them, but it's also possible some of the projects may never happen because of their cost.
Creech has suggested putting together a "Friends of Lake Ellyn Park" nonprofit fundraising group, and pursuing grant funding.
So far, only $150,000 has been budgeted for Lake Ellyn Park upgrades in the coming year -- primarily to replace a playground installed in 1991.
The proposed renovation of the boathouse, constructed in 1937, includes removing a lowered ceiling to expose an original limestone fireplace, replacing metal doors and adding historical features such as original handles and thresholds, and restoring the building's original color. The cost is estimated between $581,000 and $820,000.
Parks officials hope the boathouse restoration will earn it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Other upgrades to the site near the boathouse include the addition of a remote public restroom with an observation deck above it, a floating performance platform for summer concerts, and a picnic shelter -- all for as much as $2 million.
Items meant to improve water quality include the restoration and stabilization of the shoreline, enhancement of plantings, and installation of so-called "floating restorers," which are islands with vegetation that water moves through. Those improvements could cost between $2.5 million and $4.3 million.
Landscaping upgrades, such as root zone restoration, re-establishment of trees, and turf stabilization, could cost between $1.6 million and $4.8 million.
Other improvements include the removal of invasive shrubs from the Sam Perry Nature Preserve on the north end of the park, addition of permeable pavement on trails to improve drainage, and the addition of benches, lamps and garbage bins.
Yocca said the master plan doesn't propose to change the park dramatically, but instead is "improving, protecting, polishing and refining elements that sustains them over time."
But some residents who addressed the board Tuesday wanted the plan scaled back, particularly with respect to the addition of the bathroom structure and a performance band stage, which could increase use of the park.
"With this project, what are the needs, versus what are the wants?" said Christa Mannion, who has lived near the park for 20 years.
Commissioner Richard Dunn, who expressed concerns with possible project costs, voted against the plan.
Board Vice President Jay Kinzler acknowledged he would likely vote against some of the bigger ticket items when they are formally proposed due to the cost, but said it was important to have a plan in the first place.
"You have to have the dream first," Kinzler said. "Then you figure out the nuts and bolts."