Lake Forest residents are asking the not to disturb or change the historic flavor of the park during Tuesday night's presentation of the draft master plan to the .
"This is a concept, but this is not a master plan in any sense," said resident Rommy Lopat. "Bringing these plans was more than premature. There are a few problems. The parking is well-used and all day long. What's wrong with having 8-15 cars in the park? Now the plan proposes parallel parking; the park needs to encourage, not disenfranchise the public from using the park."
In contrast, park board members mostly were pleased compared to the mixed reaction from residents. The plan was to be presented again Wednesday night before the Historic Preservation Committee.
After that input, the master plan will be further refined and be reviewed again by the local boards. Parks Board Chairman Robin Ford said the plan could come before the for review later this spring.
- To view the plan, visit the Forest Park Project website.
While other residents respected the integrity of the park designed in 1901 by Prairie Style proponent O.C. Simonds, they also believe it needs to be updated.
Resident Rick Amos said he jogs in parks “all over the country.”
“The time to renovate is long overdue. I think the design is great. To not do anything, to repave the road is just a missed opportunity. It's time to re-address that park and clean it up," Amos said.
The plan draft, developed by landscape architects Steven Stimson Associates after resident feedback and committee input dating back nearly a year, included renovations in line with recommendations the Forest Park Project Board made in January, such as:
- Retaining the original Ring Road in a form and location respectful of the original O.C. Simonds design;
- Eliminating Ring Road parking, but providing space for short-term vehicle waiting and passenger drop-offs;
- Repairing the belvedere stairs and beach-access ramp;
- Recognizing the cultural value of the park.
Some of the problems highlighted in the draft plan include:
- A limited lake view because of growth of seedlings and invasive species, which result in a dense canopy and lack of biodiversity. This would be addressed by replanting and removal of undesirable or damaged plants and trees.
- Presence of exotic or non-native plants, and a proliferation of plants acceptable in Simonds' time but now considered invasive, such as Norway maples and black locusts.
- Bluff erosion from runoff;
- Bluff failure at the south end near Ring Road and at the south access road boat launch. According to the proposed plan, the volume of and vibrations from traffic on Ring Road, originally designed as a horse-wagon trail, actually are affecting the bluff's stability. The plan recommends replacing Ring Road with a walking path made of granular material, edged in stone and set back further from the bluff.
- Erosion along the park's edge on Lake Road due to lack of curbs and gutters.
A single memorial site was suggested for past and future memorials, such as bench-dedicated trees and bench plaques. Any tree removal would be discussed with families.
Architect Steve Stimson said 38 trees would be removed and 15 transplanted, with seven designated as memorials.
"The trees we envision are a continuation of the native heritage trees like oak, hickory and sugar maple," with some added on the bluff edge, he said.
"One of the nice things about the park is it's large enough, and you can phase in planting," Stimson added. "I think I would want to have the road resolved, lighting, basic infrastructure done and the parking to the south. We can do planting or can plant smaller trees."
Improving views and incorporating less-obtrusive backless stone benches for seating didn't go over well with residents like Jim Lovell, who lives near the park.
"The benches we now have are nice, wooden benches with backs and sides, and are historic in nature," he said. "Stone benches are cold and just a waste of money and time, and I don't think people will use them."
Resident and Friends of Forest Park member Basil Falcone disagreed. "Forest Park is a de facto historic site; any changes, landscape or otherwise should coincide with preservation and city ordinances," he said.
But Forest Park Project Board Chairman Ralph Gesualdo said the plan is flexible and can be done in stages.
"We don't have to finish the entire park all upfront," he said. "A master plan is created and can be a process."