Friday, January 17, 2020 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
The villages of Maywood and Melrose Park will receive significant financial support on two critical recreation projects. State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (4th) and Gov. Pritzker announced on Jan. 17 that the state will allocate $29.7 million for 85 local parks and recreation projects across the state. Maywood will receive $333,000 to help renovate the pool inside of the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center, 300 Fred Hampton Way in Maywood while Melrose Park will receive $163,000 for a canoe/kayak launch at Silver Creek Interpretive Trail.
“Investments in local park projects are good for families and recreation enthusiasts, helping them enjoy outdoor activities and making Illinois communities better places to live and work,” the governor said on Friday.
The governor’s office said in a statement that “when combined with the investment of local matching funds, the grants announced today will support more than $56 million in local park development projects and land acquisitions statewide.”
The grants are part of the state’s Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program, which provides up to half the funding for parks and recreation projects in the state. During the former Gov. Pat Quinn’s tenure, state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th), who grew up in Maywood, pushed to change an aspect of the OSLAD, so that 10 percent of the funds would go to help cover up to 90 percent of the cost for projects located in low-income and distressed communities.
Since then, OSLAD funding has gone toward a variety of projects in Proviso Township. For example, roughly $1.6 million in OSLAD funds helped pay for the renovation of the Maywood Park District’s recreation building at 809 Madison St. in Maywood, which opened last year as the Lightford Recreation Center.
Last summer, the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center, which is operated through a partnership between the village of Maywood and the West Cook YMCA, did not open due to extensive damage caused by the polar vortex that gripped the region in January 2019. Maywood splits the costs of the center with the YMCA, which is solely responsible for operating the pool.
“Two things happened in the winter of 2018,” said Phillip Jimenez, the West Cook YMCA’s president and CEO, during an interview an interview with Village Free Press in May 2019. “The long rainy season, coupled with that very cold weather we got for 48 to 72 hours caused spider cracks to form in the pool’s cement foundation,” Jimenez said. “With the polar vortex, the pool started to just pop.”
The Fred Hampton Aquatic Center, which closed in 2019 due to extensive damage. | File
Jimenez said that roughly 19 to 20 holes — ranging from the size of a cell phone to the size of a book bag — formed in the pool’s concrete base. There was also damage along the pool’s walls, he said.
Jimenez explained back then that, with the pool scheduled to open in early June of 2019, his team of lifeguards and other personnel required to operate the pool would not have enough time to train and prepare ahead of the start of the season. But Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet Jr. said at the time that his staff would attempt to fix the pool in order to open it later in the season and without the YMCA’s assistance, but the repairs were too extensive and the pool remained closed for the 2019 season.
In a statement released Jan. 17, Welch, who helped push for the OSLAD change in the House, lauded Friday’s announcement.
“As a kid who grew up in Maywood and spent many summer days in this pool, I know how important the Fred Hampton Pool is to the community. This is an asset that is also critical to helping us keep kids safe during the summer. We cannot allow the pool to sit closed another summer.”
The governor’s office did not specify what Maywood’s matching share for this most recent OSLAD grant would be. Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet Jr. could not be immediately reached on Friday afternoon for comment.