Neighbors of Harbert Park along the North Shore Channel in Evanston offered suggestions for planned upgrades to the park and a possible new name for it at a community meeting Tuesday evening.

City officials explained that the project is able to move forward this year because of a $320,000 grant from the state Department of Natural Resources. An additional $320,000 will come from city funds, including a portion of money received from Northwestern University’s $1 million annual good neighbor grant to the city.

Stefanie Levine, a landscape architect and senior project manager for the city, said plans for the park, which runs from Main to Dempster streets, include rebuilding the basketball court at Main Street, replacing playground equipment just north of Greenleaf Street, adding a picnic shelter and repairing sections of the bike path that now tend to flood.

Some of the playground equipment now in the park (Google Maps).

New LED bulbs would also replace the existing metal halide ones in the park’s light fixtures.

Levine said the playground equipment in the park, which is more than 20 years old, has deteriorated, and she sought feedback from residents on the design and style of new equipment that might replace it.

The park reportedly was named about 1983 for Elizabeth Boynton Harbert, an author and woman’s suffrage advocate who was a founder of the Woman’s Club of Evanston.

Several neighbors at the meeting suggested renaming it, or creating a hyphenated name for it to also honor Betty J. Payne, a long-time neighborhood activist and organizer of the Canal Park Neighbors community group who died recently.

Peter Braithwaite.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, whose 2nd Ward includes the park, said the renaming idea would likely need to be first considered by the city’s Parks and Recreation Board before being approved by the City Council.

Some residents said they’d prefer “natural looking” playground equipment.

Kate Grund of 1121 McDaniel Ave. said kids have burned holes in the existing plastic equipment. “I would love something easy on the eye — perhaps not lime green,” she said.

Fern Allison of 1129 McDaniel said traditional equipment seems to inspire kids to be more creative, and “I don’t want to be looking at a pirate boat every day.”

City Engineer Lara Biggs said the city typically is able to only fund major upgrades to one of its roughly 75 parks each year, but because of the state grant and the NU gift it was able to add the Harbert work to the schedule for this year.

Levine said she hopes to be able to complete designs for the renovation work this year and have actual construction done in Spring 2020.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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