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Park board begins planning process for updates to Irwin Park play area

The playground at Irwin Park is due for an update, according to H-F Park District officials, but the timing depends on whether the district receives grant money to help fund the project. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Homewood-Flossmoor Park District commissioners have three plans to review as they begin the process of updating the play area at Irwin Park. The busiest park in the park district is just east of downtown Homewood along Ridge Road between Gottschalk and Highland Avenues in Homewood. 

What the board can accomplish will depend on whether the park district wins an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Grant awarded by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The park district must match the grant which can be as much at $400,000.

The park board last applied for an OSLAD grant in August 2019 to update Homewood Estates Park.

At the park board meeting Tuesday, Jan. 16, commissioners reviewed the plans that focus on the west end of Irwin Park. Upland Design Ltd., a firm that designs outdoor spaces, offered three versions of a plan with different price tags. The lowest estimate — $545,100 — would change out the play equipment that is more than 20 years old, add a story walk and plantings. Option 3 with the highest cost — $967,700 — would update the play equipment and add an outdoor exercise area, a shade area, activities for seniors, benches, planters and beautification areas.

The park district will schedule a meeting for the community to see the plans and offer input.

“Don’t get hung up on what you see. We can swap out equipment and play features,” Parks Executive Director Doug Boehm said. “It is our feature park. We do have to do some drainage and some concrete work whichever option you choose.”

Park commissioners said they would like to see Option 3 because it offers the most amenities. Any changes are years out. A final design the depend on winning the OSLAD grant. An award may be announced in late 2024 or early 2025. Once commissioners know the budget, they can start the process of awarding contracts. 

Boehm estimates the process should take at least two years. The park board would budget for the improvements over two budget years.

There also was discussion about removing the ball field in the park. That change is not part of the Upland Design project. Neither are any changes to the fountain or the improvements to the gazebo area.

At a future meeting, commissioners will approve a contract with Upland Design to prepare the OSLAD grant which is due in August.

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