Park District Shouldn’t Leap Before It Looks


Ever since the Oakton Pool’s diving well imploded in 2005, it should have been clear to any sentient Park Ridge resident that Oakton Pool itself was on its last legs.  

The Park Board actually voted in 2006 to close it, only to relent but institute a “do not resuscitate” policy in the event the pool required any extraordinary repair or maintenance expense. And at least once every year since, closing Oakton has been debated in the face of dwindling attendance and a steady stream of red ink. 

So we get a perverse chuckle out of residents like Stephen Murray, who have the gall to disingenuously beef about a “lack of communication” about Oakton Pool’s condition, and about its closing being “just not fair to the people who use the pool,” when he actually attended and spoke at a meeting last June where the Park Board discussed the distinct possibility that last summer would be Oakton’s final one. 

Now that the belated but sound decision has been made to put Oakton Pool out of its money-hemorrhaging misery, the Park District needs to make an even more important decision: What to do with the Oakton Pool site.

Park District Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle reportedly wants to demolish the pool and replace it with grass.  The price tag for that plan: A “rough estimate” of $170,000 for the demolition, and a six year old estimate of an additional $1 million for the “grassy park.”  

The “grassy park” was the choice of a majority of residents who participated in a District-run telephone survey back in 2005, around the same time that the voters rejected the first of two Oakton referendums – one for building a new outdoor pool, the other for building an indoor recreation center.

But before the Park District leaps to replace concrete with grass, we hope it gives some serious thought to what other, better uses that space might be put.  And if another use is realistically contemplated, let’s not waste money on building a grassy park that will just have to be converted into something else a short time down the road – like Chicago’s Millennium Park, where sod was laid, then torn up and replaced with concrete, which in turn was torn up and replaced with more sod…one of the many reasons the Park came in at hundreds of millions over budget. 

Back in 2004 when the batting cages were added to Oakton, the plan then being discussed was to also add a miniature golf course to create a true “family” recreation center: a triad of driving range, batting cages and mini-golf.  But that third component never was added, in part because no suitable location could be found.  

With the pool gone, however, space may no longer be a problem.  Or if mini-golf (or some other feature) isn’t in the cards, perhaps relocating the batting cages to a more visible location might give their revenues a much-needed boost. 

In any event, we’re guessing that a grassy park really isn’t the ultimate goal, or highest and best use, of the Oakton Pool site.  So before the Park District dumps $1.2 million or more into what is likely to be only a temporary fix, we suggest it remember the motto of television’s “This Old House”:

Measure twice, cut once.

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