Four years ago, two west Evanston grandmothers dreamed of a park where they could bring their toddlers to play in their neighborhood. After years of hard work, and a lot of help from their friends, ground was broken Friday to commence fulfillment of that dream.

A photo of Riseborough and Trujillo from the organization’s website.

The grandmothers, Gay Riseborough and her neighbor, Mary Trujillo, raised more than $250,000 to purchase land at 1125 Dewey Ave. for what has been unofficially dubbed Grandmother Park. They are signing the land over to the city, which agreed to incorporate the tract into its park system.

Then they went about to raise some $250,000, a monumental task when the city told them it could only kick in $50,000, which they later increased to $67,000 with the addition of some Community Development Block Grant money from the federal govenrnment. 

Hundreds of individuals and businesses donated funds to help bring the park into fruition, including Col. James Pritzker. That’s the same Col. Pritzker whose proposal to restore the former Harley Clarke mansion and turn it into a 57-room hotel at Lighthouse Park was turned down last week by the City Council.

The first shovel of dirt was actually turned over Friday by one of Riseborough’s grandchildren, Griffin Kearns, who now is a bit old for a toddler park as he enters the third grade this month at Washington Elementary School.

Some of the crowd at the groundbreaking. That’s Riseborough in the back row with the sunglasses on her head.

Nonetheless, Riseborough was grinning from ear to ear as she told the throng of media, parents, and many of the donors, that she was described by former city parks director Doug Gaynor as “relentless” in her determination to bring their idea to fruition.

The other grandmother, Mary Trujillo, missed out on the celebration, as she was out of town.

Barbara Schwartz, co-owner of Nature’s Perspective Landscaping, said that work on developing the land will probably begin in September, after the city has received the playground equipment that will be installed in the park.

Riseborough said she is hoping to have a “big block party” in October when the work has been completed.

Marty Lyons, assistant city manager, said he is hopeful that the private/public collaboration that worked so well can be a model for others who wish to develop parks in their neighborhoods.

Top: Griffin Kearns, grandson of Riseborough, who was only three when the idea for the park was conceived.

Earlier stories:

Final push for Grandmother Park funds

Dewey Avenue to get new tot lot

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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1 Comment

  1. Penny Park

    Twenty years ago, neighbors came together to create Penny Park.  Exactly what the Grandmother's team has done.

    This is an opportunity to thank again the hundreds of volunteers who built (literally) Penny Park and the dozens of Evanston businesses who helped make Penny Park a reality.

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