Everyday heroes to be honored in new Round Lake Beach park
In a grassy area near the Round Lake Beach police station, a maple tree has been planted as a focal point of a planned community spot to honor local heroes.
Heroes Grove won't be a park in the traditional sense but a place to sit, reflect and relax. And unlike areas of respite honoring specific groups, such as veterans, those to be remembered here will be more personal.
"This needs to be a community park. It can't just be for police officers and law enforcement," explained Nanci Radford, interim chairwoman of the Round Lake Beach Police Foundation.
"It's a place for everyone to recognize the heroes in their lives. It can be their favorite teacher," she said.
The nonprofit foundation is partnering with the village, police union and Greater Round Lake Fire Protection District on the project. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held April 6 and initial construction is expected to begin in summer.
So far, the focus has been on the sale of commemorative bricks, with a fundraising goal of $25,000. A contractor likely will be selected this week.
Supporters have been distributing brochures and pitching the project at various locales. Brick sales are expected to pick up when the foundation launches a revised website in coming weeks. Donations for a brick start at $85.
Heroes Grove will be built in front of the village hall/police department, which is part of a 170-acre Town Center built in phases beginning about 25 years ago.
Village officials over the years had envisioned some type of first-responders monument, but a location was never identified, according to Village Administrator Dave Kilbane.
This time, the village board agreed to a design concept adopted by the police foundation that fit into the original Town Center plan for large open green spaces between buildings with a tribute to first responders, he said.
The foundation was incorporated in September 2016 to promote a partnership between police and the community and to raise and distribute funds for community safety and security.
"Our purpose is not just to be public servants -- we want to be a seamless part of the community," said Police Chief Gilbert Rivera. "Think of us as community partners, not just warriors or watchdogs."
In its short time, the foundation has been involved in a variety of activities to get closer to the community, such as coffee with a cop, shop with a cop during the holidays, and loading squad cars with Halloween treats.
"I think it's really changed the perspective of people in the community," Radford said.
Rivera said a community park long has been anticipated in front of the station and Heroes Grove will become part of the walking areas around the municipal campus. It's envisioned as a gathering place for people to honor their heroes, whoever they may be.
The project is expected to be done in phases, beginning with the first brick walk and seating wall segment. Personalized bricks that have been sold will be incorporated to start and plain pavers will be replaced as more are sold.
Landscaping will play a big role as well.
"Sometime this summer, we hope to have a (community) planting," Radford said. "We've got a lot of ideas."