Pat Nevins recalls his years of serving the park district and the satisfaction of watching the district develop parks that are important to the community. His article is part of the Chronicle’s series celebrating the district’s 50th anniversary. It first appeared in the January 1 print edition.
My wife Barb and I, and our two small kids, were living in a two-bedroom condo in Chicago. It was beyond time to make a move. I worked in the South Suburbs and we both knew we would be moving to the Homewood-Flossmoor area.
One of the factors we used in 1986 to decide on a house was a sign across the street. It was a wooden one, in front of a long fence along 187th Street: “Future Park Site Homewood-Flossmoor Park District.” At that time the fenced area was an Army Reserve Base.
Growing up in Oak Park, I spent thousands of hours playing in a park and knew this new park across from our house would offer my kids that same great opportunity.
Ironically, even though I would eventually go on to serve as a park commissioner for 18 years, when we moved to Homewood I knew little about the park district, except that it planned for that park. Unfortunately, it took years, and the hard work of many, to make that site into Patriots Park.
The Army moved out in the 1990s, and the work began to make the sign’s prediction a reality. The park staff and boards and the community all came together. The village of Homewood and the park district worked hard to obtain the land from the National Park Service. The park district’s successful “Keep It Green” campaign encouraged voters to approve a 1998 referendum approving money to develop the Army Reserve site into one of three new beautiful park district properties.
Planning for the park included input from the residents surrounding the old Army base. Then came the bulldozers, pavers, new dirt, lots of new plantings and playground equipment. Patriots Park was ready in 2001 to welcome its first children, their parents and the community.
By then my children were both in college and not the target demographic for the park’s circus-themed playground or the child-sized climbing area.
However, Barb and I make tremendous use of the park regularly walking one of its paths. I played softball there for several years – it was pretty convenient to just cross the street to play a game.
I consider myself fortunate to have served the H-F community through the park board, and that I live across the street from a beautiful park that I helped to become a place that is often filled with the laughter of children on the playground. I see people of all ages walking. I hear the clang of a Frisbee hitting the “hole” on the disk golf course, the pling of an aluminum bat hitting a softball. And there are those, like me, just sitting on a bench in peaceful solitude enjoying the outdoors.
Patrick Nevins served the H-F park district for 25 years, first on the Leisure Services Committee and then as an elected member of the Board of Commissioners from 1997 through 2015.