Libertyville approves parks master plan

There aren't any big, splashy projects in the immediate future but for the first time in 19 years, Libertyville has a fresh vision for the future of its park system.

Village officials without fanfare on Tuesday approved a parks master plan, the first update since 1999. The action ended a process that began in January when the village hired Hitchcock Design Group of Naperville for $40,900 to create a guideline for Libertyville parks for the next 15 years.

"It gives us a good framework," said Connie Kowal, director of the Libertyville Sports Complex and recreation department. "It's like a road map."

The effort involved a facilities assessment, workshops, surveys, a community meeting and other public input.

"This was a very intensive process," said Steve Konters of Hitchcock Design. "We had 740 people participate online. That's one of the largest numbers we've had in recent years."

The finished product provides updated information in a variety of areas and allows village officials each year to assess needs, priorities, opportunities and timelines for upgrades and capital improvements.

Among the first suggested orders of business will be to create a master plan for Nicholas-Dowden Park and coordinate it with an ongoing village stormwater study. The park is in a flood-prone neighborhood.

Besides an inventory and classification of the village's 20 parks, the 100-page master plan contains detailed information on existing conditions, amenities, level of service by area, and local, state and national trends in recreation. It also suggests strategies for individual parks.

Broad initiatives include maintaining existing parks by systematically replacing playgrounds in order of use and age, for example.

Other suggestions include: integrate stormwater initiatives at various parks; expand and improve the trail system; establish a tree replacement program; build interpretive trails in natural areas at Butler Lake and other parks; partner with open space organizations to assist in fundraising; and, increase park access for underserved areas.

An "action plan" outlines the steps and potential timeline for implementing the findings in a year-by-year list in chronological order for fiscal years from 2019 to 2034.

Besides the Nicholas-Dowden Park master plan, other suggested actions for the fiscal year beginning May 1 include: updating park design criteria; establish a fundraising entity; conducting surveys for teens, young adults and active seniors; and, working with other agencies to develop a communitywide trail and bikeway plan.

Mayor Terry Weppler said he will reactivate the dormant parks commission and is looking for volunteers to serve.

  Kids play hockey at Nicholas-Dowden Park in Libertyville. A master plan for Nicholas-Dowden is among the first to-do items in the village's new long-range parks plan. Steve Lundy/, 2017
  Kayakers on the street along Nicholas-Dowden Park in Libertyville after flooding in 2017. Coordinating master plans for Nicholas-Dowden with an ongoing villagewide stormwater study is suggested for next year. Joe Lewnard/
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