Oakbrook Terrace Park District closing nature center, canceling events

The Oakbrook Terrace Park District will close its nature center and cancel community events for the rest of the year because of a budget shortfall.

Executive Director Cathy Fallon announced in a statement that the district's revenue sources are "under pressure" and the district needs to take action "to be responsible with the revenue we receive."

Those steps include ceasing day-to-day operations of the Lake View Nature Center at 17W063 Hodges Road. The closure, which takes effect June 3, will impact daily walk-in traffic at the facility.

Officials said the district intends to maintain nature-based recreation and programming that meets the needs of residents.

"It was a difficult decision to close a facility and eliminate the jobs of valued park district employees," Fallon said in the statement. "The decision was made after an exhaustive review of our entire organization and with the greatest reluctance."

In addition to closing the nature center, the park district is suspending the planning of community events for the remainder of the year. However, a Kids Fit in Nature event scheduled for May 14 will go on as planned.

Fallon said the cutbacks will allow the district to operate within a balanced budget and remain "on a responsible financial path" for the fiscal year that started May 1.

On Wednesday, Fallon said the nature center draws visitors from throughout the suburbs. But the facility has had financial problems for years since the loss of state funding that supported its budget.

"We've made our best efforts to keep the nature center running as is," Fallon said. "But it just came to a point where the expenses were significantly outweighing the revenue."

The facility recently has averaged just 10 to 15 visitors a day, and there's been a drop in donations and revenue from programs at the center.

Despite the closure, the plan is to continue to use the building for programs, birthday parties and Scout groups.

"The full intention is to keep all of the nature center programming running," Fallon said.

Other district programming has been restructured with nature programing being absorbed into the recreation department "in an effort to keep the park district financially viable," officials said.

District officials said they hope all the cutbacks will be temporary and next year's budget won't be "adversely affected by a shortfall." The district's total budget is roughly $1.5 million.

Officials said they are optimistic that an increase in community support through sponsorships and advertising revenue will help bridge the gap between revenues and expenses.

"We are really hoping this a short-term situation," Fallon said.

The Oakbrook Terrace Park District serves roughly 4,000 residents from Oakbrook Terrace and unincorporated areas near Villa Park.

The district's two other facilities are the Heritage Center at 1S325 Ardmore Ave. and Fitness Center at 1 Parkview Plaza. The district also has three parks - Heritage Park, Terrace View Park and Dorothy Drennon Park - and the William Cizek Bike Path.

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