Zoom in on the area of Weston and Lincoln Avenues on Aurora’s near east side. There, you’ll find crowded development, featuring concrete, cars, alleys – and kids without much room to romp and play.
Green grass remains largely absent here, the hum of lawnmowers during the spring and summer barely audible several blocks away.
The Fox Valley Park District is set on changing the scene.
Thanks to a $285,000 grant from the state’s Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program, which is administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the District within two years will construct a new, approximately one-acre space – fittingly named Backyard Park.
“That’s our most dense and least-served area from an open-space standpoint,” said Jeff Palmquist, senior director of Planning, Research and Grants at the Park District. “We haven’t had any opportunities for additional open space since the early 1990s, after a factory burned down.”
The grant was recently announced by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.
Palmquist noted that the zoning in this area was changed after World War II, because of a housing shortage. In turn, the once single-family units were “allowed to be carved into two, three, four units, and that’s why it’s so dense now,” Palmquist said. “So that was part of our story – we’re creating a backyard for all these people.”
Palmquist said the park’s featured facility will be a playground, while the balance of the site will consist of open space for unstructured play that’s so desperately needed in the neighborhood.
“This park,” Palmquist said, “helps address that need.”
The OSLAD program funds open space acquisition and development. Gov. Pritzker announced that 89 park and recreation agencies throughout the state will receive a total of $28.9 million in OSLAD grants.