The Oregon Park District received a $600,000 Open Spaces Land Acquisition and Development grant for work on Oregon Park East. The village of Mount Morris got $152,600 to redevelop Zickuhr Park.
The Dixon Park District also received an OSLAD grant; it got $68,200 to upgrade the basketball court at Vaile Park.
OSLAD is a state-financed program with dedicated funding through a portion of the state’s Real Estate Transfer tax. It is offered through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Recipients can get up to $600,000 for development/renovation projects or up to $1.725 million for acquisition projects, on a dollar-to-dollar match.
Almost $55 million was awarded to 111 park projects throughout Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Jan. 30. Since its establishment, OSLAD has awarded almost $585 million.
Oregon Park District’s Park East
The total cost to redevelop Oregon Park East is about $1.2 million. Improvements will include a new playground; half-basketball court, nine-hole disc golf course, improvements to the existing baseball field, a 1/2-mile trail loop, improvements to meet Americans with Disabilities Accessibility Act requirements and creation of a dedicated parking lot.
OPD has been planning improvements at Park East since 2019, when a master plan specifically for that park was created, Executive Director Erin Folk said. The selected improvements were identified through community input sessions and surveys, she said.
“I think these are going to be good amenities we’re going to be adding for the community at large, but also for visitors,” Folk said. “It’s nice to see us focus on the east side of the community with these improvements, as well.”
Work on the baseball diamond includes the addition of lights, removal of fencing, ADA improvements and drainage upgrades that will minimize the work required to maintain it, Folk said.
The trail loop will tie into a shared-use path from Illinois Route 64 to Lowden State Park that is being built.
The 1.88-mile Rock River Heritage Trail will provide access to the park and downtown Oregon for residents and visitors. It will run along the eastern shoreline of the river within the right of way of the unmarked state highway, River Road and within Lowden State Park, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
OPD’s matching funds for the OSLAD grant are allocated through the district’s capital improvement project plan completed every five years, Folk said.
Construction, which OPD doesn’t anticipate to occur until 2025, will not impede the Chana School Museum, she said.
“All improvements will remain away from that area and not provide any impact on their operations.”
Mount Morris’ Zickuhr Park
The total cost of the Zickuhr Park project is $305,200. Components include a picnic shelter; additions to the existing play structure, including ADA-compliant sections; redoing the half-court basketball area; game tables; a pollinator garden with interpretative signage; fitness stations; and a sunset overlook with seating.
“It offers more for the younger kids that live on the northwest corner of Mount Morris,” Parks and Recreation Trustee Jim Hopkins said. “All the rest of the parks are across Route 64.”
Based on community feedback, the adult exercise stations and sunset overlook were added, he said.
“A lot of people commented on liking to sit out there for the sunsets, so we did incorporate some of that.”
A full walking path around Zickuhr Park was part of the original project plan, but the plan had to be revised when Mount Morris found out July 26, 2023 – about halfway through the application period – that it didn’t make the state’s distressed community list for fiscal 2024. Distressed communities are eligible for 100% forgiveness up to $600,000 on the OSLAD grant.
Mount Morris was listed as a distressed community the past few years, but came off the list because equalized assessed values increased. With the village’s change in status, it became eligible to get up to 50% of the OSLAD grant forgiven.
As a result, the Zickuhr Park redevelopment costs had to be scaled back from the original budget of $632,000, of which the village would have been responsible for $32,000.
Hopkins said some community members have reached out about financially supporting the project, but nothing is finalized.
“Once we get into the discussions of the next phase on the bidding, I’m hoping to come up with a number of what it would take to finish the walking path, and then reach out to the people who had mentioned wanting to help,” he said.
The hope is to break ground at Zickuhr Park in 2025 and have it done by the following summer, Hopkins said.
Dixon Park District’s Vaile Park
Dixon Park District’s total project cost will be $136,400. The project involves resurfacing, repaving and painting the basketball court at Vaile Park and installing acrylic basketball backboard hoops.
“That’s the most-used basketball court in Dixon,” DPD Executive Director Duane Long said. “There’s 15 to 20 kids down there a night in the evening. Some of them ride their bikes, some drive cars. That tells you the age range that uses it.”
Currently, there’s one basketball court, but the redesign includes the addition of a second full-sized court, he said.
DPD plans to seek community support to help match the OSLAD grant because they went over budget on the canoe launch last year, Long said.
“We have the money, but we want to keep our projects in line,” he said. “If there’s community involvement out there, I think that can only help the project. The park district will be working on that the next couple months.”
The hope is to have the project completed this spring, but that’s not for sure and no dates are set, Long said. It might be done in 2025.
“Our whole mission last year was to improve that park, and now we’ve got a grant to redo the centerpiece of this park,” Long said. “It’s going to be the best basketball court that Dixon’s ever seen.”