The Evergreen Park & Recreation District board is trying to envision what the district should offer in the next 10 years.
The board spent more than two hours on May 23 looking into a crystal ball, figuratively speaking, as it pored over data from a variety of sources on district wants and needs. Board members are trying to get a better idea of what should be in its strategic plan for programs and facilities to offer in the next three to five years.
No decisions have been made on specific projects for the strategic plan or whether the rec district will ask voters for more property taxes in November.
The board decided that its strategic-planning decisions should be based on six criteria: community support, fiscal responsibility and operational feasibility, caring for current facilities, sustainability, whether the project increases patron usage, and whether it fulfills long-term district goals.
“My biggest question is cost and time and approach to take in terms of trying to address the needs to the public,” Eggers said. “We tried five years ago to ask for it all at once,” referring to a failed bond ask in 2018.
“How do we analyze these projects vis-a-vis expense, and how do we create a timeline and a dollar timeline to create a convincing argument to the public?”
More gymnasium, aquatics space
The survey of EPRD constituents showed they are interested in more aquatics, pickleball and tennis courts, another gymnasium and more community gathering space.
To hit most of those wishes, one idea being floated — with many questions still to be answered such as feasibility and cost — is closing the Wulf Recreation Center pool, which is 51 years old and would be very expensive to replace, and reconfiguring the entire building, including adding more gymnasium/indoor court space.
Then, the district would expand the aquatics area at the Buchanan Park Recreation Center, which district staff said would be easier to operate with all aquatics programs in one place.
The board doesn’t know whether voters would allow it to keep the money from a bond that will be paid off in 2025, what could be done with that money and how long it would take to remodel the Wulf Rec Center. The board also doesn’t know whether voters would pay for an expansion at Buchanan.
Board members brought up the uncertainty with property taxes after assessments increased substantially. They said that needed to be taken into consideration as they determine whether to put questions on the November ballot.
“One improvement begets the other,” board President Peter Eggers said. “If we (make changes at one rec center), then we automatically set up for improvements at the other rec center. Once we get the ball rolling, the projects will get larger and larger like a snowball. We need to be conscious of the direction we take and the implications of that direction.”
Executive Director Cory Vander Veen noted that the district needed to be fiscally responsible in what it does and be mindful of what the community will support.
Board member Don Rosenthal said if the district developed a renovation plan at Wulf, “you’d be surprised at how much utilization we could get out of that building. I think it’s all there in front of us.”
Monty Estis, who served on the board for seven years but was term-limited, asked whether a two-stage approach might be the best way to go: asking to keep the money from the paid-off bond first and then asking for additional funds.