Parks and Recreation board plans renovations

Ben Winck, Assistant City Editor

City staff announced renovations for two west Evanston parks at a Parks and Recreation Board meeting Thursday.

Department director Lawrence Hemingway said the improvements made to Mason Park will attract more residents, both with its new computer lab and overhauled basketball courts. The courts will open after a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 3.

“We run an afterschool program at Mason Park, and it is busting at the seams with children, so having some technology access for the kids is a huge thing for us,” Hemingway said.

Renovations were announced for Bent Park as well, with its soccer field turf closing temporarily for the city to lay new sod and renew the surface. Hemingway said the constant use over the last several years left the field in poor condition.

“If you never let the field rest, let that turf rest, it never has a chance to regenerate and grow,” Hemingway said. “Bent Park has been taking off all summer, and we’ll be able to return that field back to the soccer community next spring.”

Hemingway also discussed a new initiative to bring in consultants to review Evanston’s Parks and Recreation department.

Parks and Recreation assistant director Robert Dorneker said the process would help the board better understand what it’s doing well and where it could improve, adding that the process would “lay a good road map” for future policies and park concepts.

Community services assistant director Karen Hawk said the review process benefits the entirety of Evanston by revealing where the department could fine-tune its processes.

“It can only make us better,” Hawk said. “There are things that we’ve done for years that work but may not necessarily be the best practice. This will push us to be better and to look at how our overall operation is.”

Hemingway addressed the new parks and recreation budget and the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment program. Hemingway said his department is ready to help with getting more youth employed in the summer months.

“Our budget grew a little bit, both on the revenue and expenses sides,” Hemingway said. “An additional $200,000 helps our side of the table, the city side, but we also are partnering with the private sector to help us meet that goal and get those thousand workers.”

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