Independence Park at Central Street and Stewart Avenue. (Google Maps image)

Bathrooms.

That was one of the ideas suggested as a way to make Independence Park in north Evanston a more inviting place for the community.

Suggestion posted at idea-gathering session about Indepedence Park.

Of course, there were plenty of other proposals Tuesday evening, as about three-dozen people attended a city-sponsored session on “re-imagining” the green space and playground at Stewart Avenue in the Central Street business district.

Jamie Swartzer lives across the street from the park, a place where her two girls, ages three and six, love to play.

Swartzer said what she likes the most “is all of the trees,” and all of the shade which comes with them.

Jamie Swartzer examines proposals for Independence Park.

Not only that, but “kids climb the trees and interact with nature.”

While Swartzer thinks the park is terrific, she also says there could be more things to do for older children.

Young children “grow out of the existing playground,” she noted, and suggested things like a zip line, tall climbing walls with ropes, and tetherball to help attract adolescents.

Tuesday evening’s meeting, at the Chandler-Newberger Recreation Center, had participants put up sticky-notes with ideas about additions, subtractions, or just leaving things as is.

“We want to see what folks here want for their park,” said Stefanie Levine, the city’s project manager for whatever work is ultimately done.

The facility’s playground equipment is aging. The last make-over was about 30 years ago, Levine notes.

Consultants will collect the residents’ ideas, and then come back with options and price tags in a couple of additional meetings between now and May.

One suggestion was for “water/splash pads, which will make the park a destination” and attract people who will shop in nearby stores.

Angela Shaffer, director of the Central Street merchants group, said last year’s “take-out picnic,” which encouraged people to buy food at local restaurants and then enjoy their meals in the park, was a huge success.

Anything which could bring more shoppers while maintaining the park as a pleasant green space, she indicated, would be welcomed.

Of course, any improvements require money, which is where City Council comes in.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th), whose ward includes the park, said about $100,000 has been set aside for the current study.

Another $800-900,000 was in this year’s capital budget for the park, but was withdrawn due to so many other competing projects.

Revelle said council would have to vote again on including Independent Park in the 2024 capital spending plan.

Whatever changes/additions are ultimately made, there’s little doubt that Central Street neighbors love their park.

One meeting participant posted that the picnic tables were a favorite part of Independence Park, “because I need a place to sit & drink my coffee.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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2 Comments

  1. This is an equity issue. It’s good for all of us who have credit cards, money in the bank and are comfortable with technology. For those who are elderly ( and used to cash), disenfranchised and live hand to mouth, it could be disastrous. City council has no business making a decision like this without community input from those it will affect most!

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