Daily Herald opinion: On stables, park board finding importance of getting information, input before making a decision

Among many curiosities in the wake of the Palatine Park District’s decision to close the publicly owned Palatine Stables is a statement generally saved until the conclusion of the district’s statements about the operation.

The last of several questions at the FAQ section of its online description of the stables operation insists the park board has “no preconceived plans” for the property and promises to “actively solicit input from residents regarding the future redevelopment of the property.” And the final paragraph of its May 15 memo announcing the closing states, perhaps a little defensively considering that the stables have been managed by the district since 1988, that “the 8.5-acre property was purchased more for the land than the operations themselves.” Then, it goes on to say that in the interests of being “pro-active,” parks officials are preparing “to gather community input by conducting a community needs assessment to devise a master plan for 2025.”

Clearly, a community needs assessment and resident input are imperative elements of park district planning. Yet, it is easy to understand why supporters of the stables feel “blind-sided,” to quote the lone parks commissioner to oppose the original motion to close the operation, when even before that assessment has begun or their input has been sought, commissioners determined that, whatever else the park district may decide to offer, the stables program won’t be part of the discussion.

If indeed the parks system had something else in mind when it bought the stables, it is at least disconcerting to hear the point raised now after the district has operated the program for more than 35 years.

In response to a loud public outcry over the closing, the park board has agreed to have its engineering firm do a deeper examination of the facility. A previous spot check of the arenas and horse pens suggested structures were in serious decline and an investment of more than $2.6 million could be required in order to make them sturdy and safe.

Executive Director Ben Rea said the new review won’t necessarily lead the district to change its plans, and it would be presumptuous, at best, to assume that it would. But the expanded analysis will provide more data and more clarity on the status of the operation’s buildings if not its overall merits.

That latter question, it seems, should have been the original objective. If it will cost $2.6 million to bring the stables up to code, is the public appeal worth that investment? The park board seems to have made up its mind before collecting the data — or the public input.

Presumably, it is at last getting both. Board members may indeed still decide that the community interest in the stables doesn’t justify the costs of bringing the operation up to speed, but the community should surely hope that they now will consider all the information before they make up their minds.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.