Survey says: Cook Park not the place for donated Charters of Freedom exhibit
Village officials are willing to consider other potential locations, but Cook Park in the heart of Libertyville's downtown isn't the place for the Charters of Freedom exhibit.
The village board's three-member parks and recreation committee on Tuesday unanimously recommended against the display, which features replicas of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, being installed as a permanent feature in the popular park.
The finding is advisory, but Mayor Terry Weppler also opposes the location, so it is likely the proposal will be rejected Sept. 25 when the full board is expected to vote on the matter.
Nearly two years ago, a nonprofit group called Founders 55 floated the idea of donating a permanent display made of marble or sandstone, patterned after one in Washington, D.C., containing bronzed copies of the documents.
The idea, according to the group, was to empower students and others and build leadership by making the documents available for inspection and reflection. The idea evolved to a specific location in the park fronting the Cook House, a local landmark and the Cook Park Library.
To get a sense of how the Charters of Freedom would look in the park and what people thought of it, the village authorized the display of a full-scale model for 30 days and created an online survey that ran through Aug. 16.
Respondents were asked if they favored the Charters of Freedom being donated to the village and placed in Cook Park. The question also sparked debate on a community Facebook page.
After fine-tuning by limiting tallied responses to a maximum of two per URL, for example, the survey netted 1,317 responses. Eliminating out-of-town answers narrowed that to 1,163, but the result was clear and overwhelming: 15 percent favored the monument in Cook Park and 85 percent didn't.
"The survey clearly shows Cook Park is not the location, but I don't take the survey to say we don't want anything like this," said Rich Moras, a member of the parks and recreation committee.
"We're not saying no to other locations. It's a gift. It's an offer," and it is up to them to make a proposal, said committee Chairman Pat Carey.
The survey allowed responders to suggest another location. Cook Park Library by far was the top choice with 91 votes, followed by Independence Grove Forest Preserve with 39 votes. However, both jurisdictions are separate from the village. Three of the next four responses were village parks.
"My gut feeling is this board will not approve this monument in any Libertyville park," said Weppler, who attended the meeting. "I think we should be honest with them and tell them that."
Nobody from Founders 55 attended and the next step is to be determined.
"We are obviously disappointed as we thought it would be a great addition to the community and an opportunity to educate many young people," Stephanie Walsh, a Founders 55 member said Wednesday.
"We will take this initiative back to Founders 55 and evaluate what our next steps will be."