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DeKalb parks seeking grant money for $1M Welsh Park master plan

DeKALB – Welsh Park could get a $1 million makeover soon, as the DeKalb Park Board considers concept plans ahead of an Aug. 19 grant deadline which could fund the project up to $400,000.

Michelle Kelly, principal landscape architect at Chicago-based Upland Design presented the board with concept plans for the park, 651 Russell Road across from the University Village apartments. The design team has been working for months with the Annie Glidden North Revitalization team and Park District staff to bring more recreation options, green space and walking paths.

“This park is an amazing space because the green space was saved by neighbors,” Kelly said.

Kelly said Welsh Park serves 23% of the district’s population, and maintaining it is key to helping the surrounding neighborhoods, many of which house low-income residents who might not be able to drive to another site.

Plans would include five components to be added to Welsh Park: pickle ball courts, a playground, a splash pad, a looped walking trail and additional basketball courts. The cost to add those five elements is estimated at $930,000, Kelly said. However, additional features could bring the cost up to $1.25 million depending on the district’s desire to add extra features such as a community garden, a game area with bocce ball and table tennis, fitness equipment and picnic tables.

Kelly and the district organized public meetings and did an online survey to gauge neighborhood opinion on the plans.

Commissioner Gail Krmenec called into question the district’s ability to get an accurate sample size, since staff said the survey was only filled out by 17 people.

“To me, that’s not a representative sample,” Krmenec said.

“I’ll be honest with you, it’s sometimes really hard to get people to come to meetings,” Kelly said.

The district will also pursue getting a grant through the state’s Open Space Land Acquisition and Development program, administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The grant programs can provide up to one-half of a project’s funds. The OSLAD program began in 1987 and has invested $419.4 million in 1,765 local park projects, according to the IDNR. The program receives dedicated funding from a percentage of the state’s real estate transfer tax.

Kelly recommended the district draft a grant application by mid-July for board approval, since they could receive up to $400,000 for Welsh Park.

“The quality of a park in low-income areas is often much less than higher income areas because those people don’t have time to fight for their park,” Kelly said. “But when green space in low-income areas is improved, it starts closing the gap in equity and health.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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