Ridgeville Park District Board Member Dan Coyne says he wants the board at its meeting tonight to discuss the possibility of dissolving the park district and having the City of Evanston take over control of its parks.

Coyne says it might save the residents of the south Evanston neighborhoods covered by the park district some money if the city ran the parks and that the roughly $1 million the district has in reserves might be devoted to some other city program — like reparations.

Illinois is known as the state with the largest number of local government agencies in the nation — largely because of its proliferation of special purpose boards, like park districts, that overlap with municipalities.

State law provides a path for the dissolution of park districts through a voter initiative process. Based on the registered voter count at the time of the 2019 election, it would take at least 3,277 petition signatures of voters in the district to get such a proposal on the ballot.

The state statute appears to provide that voters in the rest of Evanston could also get to vote on the proposal, but it’s not clear from the statute whether additional petition signatures would have to be collected for that.

If the dissolution referendum were conducted only within the Ridgeville Park District, a two-thirds vote would be required for approval. If residents throughout the city voted on the measure the statute appears to call for approval by a simple majority of both groups.

Ridgeville, established by referendum in 1939, operates seven parks totalling more than 14 acres in the portion of Evanston south of Greenleaf Street and west of Chicago Avenue.

The City of Evanston operates 76 parks and 50 playgrounds as well as seven community centers spread across the city.

Tonight’s virtual meeting of the park board is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Login information is available online.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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