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Elmhurst park board approves progress report on district initiatives

ELMHURST – The Elmhurst Park District Board of Commissioners reviewed the goals and accomplishments of the past few years at its April 9 meeting.

Commissioners approved the 2017 Year-end Strategic Plan Progress Report with a 6-0 vote. Commissioner Vince Spaeth, the board's president, was absent.

The progress report was both the year-end report for 2017 and the final report and wrap-up for the strategic plan that served from 2013 to 2017.

Executive Director Jim Rogers said in a phone interview April 10 that some of the major accomplishments for the district included the 2013 refurbishment and renovation of the Wilder Park Conservatory, which was accomplished in large part through a grant from the state of Illinois as well as district funds, and the completion of the indoor sports facility financial and market feasibility study, which was completed through a partnership with the city of Elmhurst.

The largest challenge for the indoor sports facility, which the Elmhurst community indicated support for in a Vision 2020 community survey, is where to build it because there is not much open space in Elmhurst, Rogers said.

On an operations level, the district did a program planning review to help ensure the financial sustainability of the district and its programs, in which staff looked at all the programs' fit in the marketplace, alignment with the district's mission, costs and registration trends, Rogers said. The district also underwent an initiative to improve retention numbers at Courts Plus, the district's indoor fitness facility, as competition increases in Elmhurst with multiple fitness facilities opening.

Rogers said the district accomplished almost 80 percent of its initiatives, while deferring about 10 percent to the next plan, Vision 2020. Staff also decided a few initiatives are no longer priorities because "times have changed."

The just-completed plan leads into Vision 2020, which became effective Jan. 1, Rogers said.

"Another major part of this plan ... was to make sure we were really centered on our customers to make sure that we were really nurturing our connections with folks. And that led then, in part, to the Vision 2020 process where, as I said, we just got a tremendous amount of community feedback and input," he said.

One of the items the district plans to examine with Vision 2020 is its consistency and quality of customer service.

"We feel like we provide quality customer service throughout the district, but we're really looking now to take it to another level and make sure that the customer service provided at any location or any phone that you might call at the district is consistent as well," Rogers said.

Other plans for the near future include a dog park, in which the community expressed interest during the Vision 2020 process, he said. The district had released a request for proposals the week prior to the April 9 meeting to hire an architectural engineering firm to examine the potential for designing a dog park the district purchased in 2017 at the Old York Road property. There will be a community input process for that, potentially in July or August.

The Park District is slated to redevelop the playground, courts and pathways at Conrad Fischer Park, which is at Diversey Avenue and Crown Road. The district also is resurfacing the synthetic turf field at Berens Park, 493 N. Oaklawn Ave., as part of the district's partnership with Elmhurst College.

With the community's demonstrated desires for park projects, the district is figuring out what the projects would cost, gathering design input and examining them as possible components of a potential referendum, Rogers said.

"We know they want these things. Now we have to understand what would they cost and where could they be located, and then if – and again a big if – the board were to decide to go to a referendum, we'd be able to give the community that information," he said.

The Park District would take information to the Board of Commissioners on potential plans and continue to get community feedback and input throughout the process to determine whether it would be appropriate to go to a referendum.

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