Butterfield Park District wants input on future of rec campus

Residents of a small park district near Glen Ellyn and Lombard can provide input Thursday on an expansion plan that hinges on whether officials can secure state and federal funding.

The public forum will focus on two concepts that would extend the Butterfield Park District recreation campus west to Route 53 with the redevelopment of two sites - one of which was acquired partly through a property tax increase approved by voters more than three years ago.

Through its "buy and hold" program, the Naperville-based Conservation Foundation reserved that site until the park district could raise the money to buy it as part of an effort to keep the land from being developed as a gas station at the northeast corner of Route 53 and Butterfield Road.

Members of a citizen group who formed in support of the 2014 referendum campaign have established the Butterfield Preservation Foundation and taken a similar approach to protect another property just north of the corner lot while the park district prepares to seek a federal matching grant to acquire the 3-acre site.

The deal would allow the district to preserve land around its headquarters between Glen Ellyn and Lombard for public use and open green space. The site previously contained a child-care center and could eventually make room for an expansion of the Butterfield sports complex to include a skate park, an obstacle course inspired by the "American Ninja Warrior" show, walking trails, and outdoor pickleball and basketball courts.

  The Butterfield Park District is cleaning up a former gas station property at the northeast corner of Route 53 and Butterfield Road near Glen Ellyn. The district will apply for a grant to complete the project's second phase: construction of trails, gardens and other amenities at the site. To the east is the park district's recreation and aquatic center. Mark Black/

But that project also likely would depend on whether the district can obtain grant funding.

"We don't have the money to do all this, so it would be in phases, but over time, the community will reap the benefits of an incredible park," said Larry Reiner, executive director of the district that serves roughly 10,000 unincorporated households.

Conceptual plans for the site have emerged from community surveys and meetings about the district's master plan, a document that would guide operations through 2023.

The forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in district offices will help planners refine drawings before park district commissioners vote May 10 on the final vision to submit with an application for a matching acquisition grant from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

"We're going to show them how it all fits together," Reiner said.

If approved, the district would match the funds, primarily with other allowable grant funds set aside and pursued to acquire and conserve land, Reiner said.

The overall scheme also features a proposed addition to the district's recreation center to accommodate a gym, multipurpose room and other programming space. Reiner said the park district has not finalized funding for a building addition that could come "down the road," but he added that some "private dollar donors" have indicated an interest in contributing.

  Crews are removing asphalt from a former gas station site as part of the first phase of a project to turn the Butterfield Park District property into "beautiful open space," Executive Director Larry Reiner said. Mark Black/

At the neighboring corner lot, meanwhile, crews are removing old asphalt and cement - the remnants of a former gas station demolished years ago. That cleanup work marks the first phase of a plan to turn an "eyesore" into "beautiful open space," Reiner said.

To move ahead with the second stage of the project - the construction of trails, gardens, a kid-friendly maze and learning stations, among other offerings - the park district will apply later this summer for a $400,000 matching grant from the Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development program.

The district could find out early next year if the state-administered program will award the grant. With the funds, the district could make the improvements to the site over summer 2019.

  Butterfield Park District hopes to obtain grant funding to buy a 3-acre site just north of its property at the northeast corner of Route 53 and Butterfield Road. Mark Black/

Elsewhere, the district has made extensive renovations to six parks through a nearly $3 million, voter-approved construction plan funded by taxpayer-backed bonds. The district also spent $750,000 from the referendum money and another $750,000 in grant money to purchase the roughly 2.4-acre lot at the busy intersection.

After the tax increase passed, the opportunity arose to buy the neighboring parcel to the north, Reiner said.

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