City staff will ask Evanston aldermen tonight what to do about plans to renovate Penny Park — where the idea of replacing aging wood play structures has run into a buzzsaw of opposition from some neighbors.
The opponents — some of whom were involved in designing and building the park a quarter century ago — were out in force at a community meeting last month.
Many of the objections to the $500,000 project for the park on Lake Street between Ashland and Florence avenues centered around the plan from a consulting firm hired by the city to replace the wood play structures — estimated to have a 20 year life — with ones constructed of boards made from a recycled plastic composite that are estimated to last for 50 years.
Those objections were largely over the aesthetics of the two materials.
But other residents questioned whether the playground structures were really on the verge of failing, as city staff claimed, or whether there is really a need to bring the park into compliance with current accessibility and design standards.
And, while some residents agreed with staff that the current design presented security issues — with children being able to wander out of sight of their parents and hidden areas that had been used for late-night rendevous by older youths — others disputed the need for changes based on those concerns.
In a memo to aldermen prepared for tonight’s meeting, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says that, despite a half-dozen meetings about the park improvement project over the last two years, it appears, after last month’s session, that “additional review of the project concerns is needed before the project can continue.”
He suggests that the City Council should provide direction on whether full reconstruction or partial improvements to the park are needed along with a review of the costs — especially of adding a restroom facility and pavilion that aren’t currently in the budget — and the role of a possible citizen steering committee in moving the project forward.