News - McHenry County

Woodstock to apply for grant needed for inclusive playground

Some concerns raised about current planned location for playground

Renderings of creative thematic structures that could be part of a new inclusive playground the city hopes to build in 2023 at Emricson Park in Woodstock.

The city of Woodstock may be a little closer to seeing its inclusive playground concept become a reality.

The Woodstock City Council approved a resolution at its meeting Tuesday that allows staff to move forward with applying for a $600,000 state grant to help fund construction costs for the playground, which is advertised as being for ages 8 to 80 and accessible to all types of users.

“[The funding] is going to help us out as a city,” Mayor Mike Turner said at the meeting. “The momentum and interest in this is without question.”

Some concerns were raised by council member Darrin Flynn about the location of the playground within Emricson Park, but city officials said at the meeting that neither design or location of the playground has been settled on.

Flynn asked whether choosing to move the playground to a new spot later on would affect grant funding. He said he had concerns with the current proposed location because it is near a place where people cut through the park with their vehicles.

“I don’t want to stand in the way of going for the grant,” Flynn said. “But these are things that I feel like we need to dig deeper.”

The city could change the site as long as they provide the state with a rationale, Grants Manager Terry Willcockson said at the meeting.

“I think [moving the site] is probably not an unusual kind of thing for a project of this size that you have to plan six to eight months in advance,” Willcockson said.

After it appeared plans may be stalled for the playground until next year, city staff went ahead and opted to try and apply for an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The grant is for the development of land for public parks, Willcockson said earlier this month. Its deadline for this year comes at the end of September.

The grant would be a matching one, meaning the city would need to come up with local dollars to. The original goal set earlier in the year was to find $1 million for the project. The city has already earmarked nearly $500,000 for the project.

Additional funding may be needed for bathroom installation and possible parking lot improvements, which could come out of the city’s coffers, Executive Director of Operations Christina Betz said at the meeting.

In general, a number of improvements, even going beyond those needed for the playground, could be something the city kicks around at a future date, Turner said.

“We need to maintain a little flexibility because this issue, in my opinion, has not been fully vetted out by us as a council,” Turner said. “Making changes … is going to cost money.”

The city of Woodstock has adopted plans for capital improvements, branding and art, Flynn said, suggesting this was a perfect example of the need for a parks plan as well.

“I love this, and I think it’s absolutely amazing and I think it’s something that we absolutely need,” Flynn said. “We need a master parks plan, and that has to become a priority when we’re making millions of dollars worth of decisions.”