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State grants to fund Lake County park projects: ‘This grant will be tremendously appreciated’

Several Lake County communities plan to develop accessible playgrounds, pickleball courts, community gardens and other public amenities after receiving an Illinois grant for outdoor development.

The Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant is a cost-sharing program between state and local governments administered by the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Nearly $55 million in grants was awarded to park projects across Illinois from the program. Communities were eligible for grants of up to 50% of the project costs.

Eight governments in Lake County were awarded grants ranging from $450,000 to $600,000: Lake Villa Township, Lindenhurst Park District, Mundelein Park and Recreation District Park, District of Highland Park, Lake Villa Public Library District, the village of Deer Park, Lake Bluff Park District and the village of Lake Zurich.

Many of the Lake County recipients are expecting to break ground later this year, after already consulting with design groups for the park plans and amassing funds from other public resources.

“Our parks and recreational facilities add so much to our communities. They are places to get healthy, to learn, to enjoy nature, to find beauty and solace, and to have fun with friends and family,” State Rep. Joyce Mason, D-Gurnee, said. “Illinois OSLAD grants are an important investment in our neighborhoods, and these funds will mean so much to the residents of Lake County.”

Creating inclusive outdoor spaces

The Mundelein Park and Recreation District received $600,000 from OSLAD to fund an all-abilities and inter-generational park space at Kracklauer Park in the village’s center.

With the grant, community contributions and funds from the village, the Park District will construct an accessible playground, boccia courts – similar to bocce, but wheelchair-accessible – a fishing station, a pollinator garden and renovations to the tennis courts to include pickleball lines.

Mundelein Park and Recreation District executive director Ron Salski said the goal of the project was to create an outdoor space that can be enjoyed by everyone in the community.

“This project was for an all-inclusive space, where everyone of all abilities can participate in different activities,” he said. “Whether they’re more recreational or more leisure, like the pollinator garden or fishing.”

Salski anticipates the project to break ground in June, with a goal of completion by the end of the year.

Lake Villa Township and Public Library District each received $600,000 grants for their respective outdoor projects. The Library District is the first public library to ever receive the award, according to a press release from the district.

The township plans to construct new pickleball courts that will be able to be converted into an ice skating rink in the winter, while the library is planning to expand its outdoor space with shade structures and more.

Township Supervisor Dan Venturi said the community is “very excited” about the dual-purpose use of the pickleball courts. He anticipates construction will start within the next few months.

With a chiller beneath the concrete, the courts will convert into an ice rink in the winter and last throughout the season without having to rely on weather conditions, which have been making the ice rink season shorter in recent years, according to Venturi.

The township also plans to add 16 community garden boxes next to the courts. Based on community feedback, Venturi said there has been a large demand in Lake Villa for community gardening spots.

Pickleball courts will also make their way to Deer Park in a village plan to redevelop Town Center Park with the $600,000 OSLAD grant and village matching funds.

Along with the courts, the plan adds a new playground, amphitheater, event lawn, walking loop and more to the public park, which is currently home to two soccer fields and a baseball diamond.

Village Administrator Beth McAndrews said the park is being constructed in a high-density area to reach more residents of the smaller community. She expects construction to begin this spring or summer.

“We’re excited; we don’t have these types of amenities in any other park in Deer Park,” McAndrews said. “This grant will be tremendously appreciated.”

chilles@chicagotribune.com