$60 million announced for 118 local park and recreation projects across Illinois

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Chicago Construction News staff writer

State grants totaling about $60 million have been awarded for 118 local park projects throughout Illinois to help communities acquire land and develop outdoor recreational opportunities.

The grants represent the largest round of Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grants in the 36-year history of the program.

For the first time in the history of the program, funding will cover 100% of eligible projects located in 22 economically distressed communities.

“Today, I couldn’t be prouder to announce that IDNR’s OSLAD program is offering the largest round of grants in the history of the program — nearly $60 million,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “The health and wellbeing of Illinoisans sits at the heart of the OSLAD program, and for the first time ever, we’ve been able to provide 100% of funding assistance to qualifying distressed recipients.”

An economically distressed community, calculated using data from the Illinois Census and the Illinois Department of Revenue, considers an area’s poverty level and equalized assessed valuation (EAV). In 2023, DNR awarded 25.5% of the OSLAD funding to distressed communities, up from 4.7% in 2022.

The Springfield Park District will receive $600,000 for a project at Gietl Park that includes demolishing an existing outdoor pool and bathhouse, and construction of a large, modern splash pad designed for multiple age groups. The park district will also add fencing, gates, concrete plazas, walkways, park shelters, LED lighting, landscaping, seating, picnic tables and more.

Other distressed communities that will receive OSLAD grants include:

  • City of Benld, in Macoupin County, will build a park on the site of former Benld Elementary School, which was destroyed by underground mine subsidence in 2009. The city will receive a $600,000 OSLAD grant to develop that park.
  • Peoria Park District will use $255,000 to acquire 40 acres along the Illinois River Bluff for extending the 9.1-mile Illinois River Bluff hiking trail and $600,000 for replacing an outdoor swimming pool at Lakeview Park with a splash pad and spray park, playground improvements, and building a public restroom for the park.
  • Chicago Heights Park District will receive $600,000 to expand Commissioners Park, add three soccer fields, lighting and spectator seating.

“The Illinois Association of Park Districts and its members are extremely grateful to Governor Pritzker for ensuring that these dedicated matching grant funds are awarded for much needed park improvement projects benefiting communities throughout Illinois,” said Peter Murphy, president & CEO of the Illinois Association of Park Districts. “As IDNR staff can attest, there is an overwhelming demand for these projects, and today’s grants will once again enable local parks to make Illinois a better place to live, work and play.”

Grants include:

  • Alexander County, City of Cairo – $599,500
  • Bond County, Kingsbury Park District – $600,000
  • Bureau County, Village of Neponset – $596,821
  • Calhoun County, Village of Hardin – $600,000
  • Champaign County Forest Preserve District – $400,000
  • Effingham County, Village of Montrose – $600,000
  • Grundy County, City of Morris – $600,000
  • Hancock County, Village of Plymouth – $600,000
  • McDonough County, Village of Industry – $600,000

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