Oglesby considers Lehigh Park improvements, weighs seeking grant versus no alcohol in the park

Residents suggest volleyball court, pump track as ideas

An aerial view of Lehigh Park on Thursday, April 11, 2024 in Oglesby.

Ideas ranging from an additional volleyball court and a pump track to new parking lots and new playground equipment were among some of the items suggested to improve Lehigh Park during a public meeting Thursday at Oglesby City Hall.

Oglesby may be applying for a 2024 Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grant to renovate Lehigh Park at the city’s east entrance. The city sought input Thursday from residents on what ideas they have for possible renovations, but now it must consider whether those improvements are worth giving up the ability to have events that serve alcohol in the park.

About 20 residents attended the meeting, which was run by North Central Council of Governments grant writer Ryan Hogan. He reviewed the OSLAD grant, explaining that it favors multifaceted projects, which would provide improvements to Lehigh Park.

To me, the biggest thing that I heard is the volleyball court being added. We need two parking lots.”

—  Oglesby Mayor Jason Curran

Hogan said the Illinois Department of Natural Resources would look for opportunities for different age groups and different types of capabilities for disabilities.

The OSLAD grant is a program administered by the IDNR that provides funding assistance to local government agencies to help develop public parks or open space.

Mayor Jason Curran said the meeting went well, adding that residents brought good ideas for improvements to the park.

“To me, the biggest thing that I heard is the volleyball court being added,” he said. “We need two parking lots – there was never really good parking there in the first place – now with the added disc golf being used. That needs to be done, and then the pavilion.”

Residents spoke out about the lack of parking and some safety concerns for parents and their children when crossing the park in the area.

Another resident said an additional volleyball court would be a good opportunity for tournaments, as the court is in a shaded area.

Curran said he was concerned that if the city moves forward with the grant, the IDNR will allow alcohol on the park grounds at all.

“I’m not saying it should make us not want to do the grant, but we need to be cognizant of it,” he said. “If we do this grant, it means we cannot have any alcohol in any way, shape or form in that location.”

Curran said it is a concern for two reasons: the people and organizations who rent the pavilion for parties and concerts in the park.

“It’s very hard to have a 10,000-person band with no beer,” he said. “These are just some of the things that need to be considered.”

Another unique suggestion for improving the park was installing a “pump track,” which is a multipurpose-built track for cycling and could be used for all age groups.

Curran said it is one of the proposed ideas for the IDNR park that is nearby.

“Just across the way, the Matthiessen annex project is looking at creating a very large BMX dirt mountain bike park,” he said. “So, to me, I don’t know why we would build a significantly smaller one.”

The public meeting was a required part of the grant process, and Curran said the next steps for Oglesby is going to the park board to “tighten” up some of the ideas and get some things on paper so the council can make a decision.

He said the biggest thing he is going to ask the park board to do is look at the negative aspects of having no alcohol in the park at all.

“What do you think? Is that worth the couple $100,000 that we are going to get for that part?” he said. “Because, again, from this point forward, there are certain events that will not be allowed there.”

Curran said he would request that the park board look at the developments during next month’s meeting.

“[They can] give us some inputs of what they think, and then the council will talk about it at a meeting, and then we will decide what to put in the entire grant,” he said.

The grant application is due in August.

North Central Council of Governments grant writer Ryan Hogan speaks Thursday, April 11, 2024, during a public meeting about Lehigh Park improvements in Oglesby.
Have a Question about this article?