Palatine's Maple Park will get a $900,000 makeover
After a tough 2020, the Palatine Park District is looking forward to a better year, starting with a project to revamp Maple Park.
"We are basically updating the entire site along some new amenities," Palatine Park District Executive Director Mike Clark said of the roughly $900,000 project, which includes a $400,0000 grant from the state's open space lands acquisition and development program.
The project consists of: building a new playground and shelter; repaving the parking lot; adding handicapped-accessible routes to the baseball field and playground; renovating the baseball field, including new backstops and dugouts; installing single-use outdoor fitness stations and a bike repair station along the trail; and connecting the trail to the bike path to the north, Clark said.
The park district board is expected to award a bid for the project Tuesday. Nine bids were received after interest from 31 contractors, and the final bid award is expected to be under budget, Clark said.
The board last month renewed Clark's contract for another three years starting Feb. 1 at a base salary of $195,197 with yearly 3% increases through Jan. 31, 2024. Clark, hired in 2012, said he intends to retire after that.
Last year was a rough one for the park district, which worked hard to end the fiscal year without dipping into reserves, Clark said.
The district suffered an operations revenue loss of about 45% in 2020, but it ended the year in the black thanks to cost-containing efforts and lower expenses due to decreased programming, Clark said. "Our staff did a magnificent job," he said. "We lived within our means."
The 2021 budget projects $29.2 million in expenses, including capital projects, and plans using $1.8 million in reserves for the latter.
Although the pandemic will still have an effect this year, "We are very optimistic that we are going to be able to offer a lot more programming at a lot more frequency and a lot more people," Clark said.
The park district currently has about 68 full-time employees, down 12 or so due to a hiring freeze implemented with the pandemic, he said.
It also relies on about 1,200 seasonal and part-time employees. When the pandemic hit in March, 425 such workers were laid off, although some were rehired for some programming under the state's COVID-19 guidelines, Clark said.
For example, summer camps were held in "pods" and two swimming pools were open for the swim team and lap swimming by reservation.
As everywhere else in the suburbs, there was a huge influx of people into public parks and trails in Palatine. "We saw the value that people place in difficult times like these on our parks," he said.
The village of Palatine has hired an urban coyote specialist due to increased sightings and two dogs killed by coyotes in recent months. The park district is helping the effort by allowing the specialist to set up cameras at its parks and Palatine Hills Golf Course.
The park district in December launched a new "ParkCast" podcast with monthly 15-minute episodes. Each summarizes current COVID-19 protocols, highlights hidden gems or a "deal of the day," and delves into a main topic, said JP McNamara, community outreach coordinator for the park district.
This month the podcast will feature an interview with the Palatine Children's Chorus. Upcoming topics will include gymnastics, golf, the Park Watch program, softball, pickleball, composting, bees, disc golf, woodcarving and gardening.