While many communities have felt disconnected because of necessary social-distancing measures during the pandemic, the Glencoe Park District is undergoing an effort to quite literally bring its local community together.
Connect Glencoe, a project from the park district that will connect several of its parks with a brand new trail and playground, is underway and moving forward.
The project will unite the village’s five separate parks, starting at Park Avenue and going through to Maple Hill Road, all along Old Green Bay Road.
The trail will be approximately a half-mile long, 10 feet wide and feature a crushed limestone surface, according to Erin Classen, Glencoe Park District superintendent of marketing and communications.
“The reason we’re doing this is, in our community-wide survey, one of the things that stood out as most important to Glencoe residents was more trails for walking, biking and running,” Classen said. “This path will be a meandering path between trees, there’s a sculpture in one of the parks, some gardens and it will also connect to Duke Park.”
A major part of Connect Glencoe is the construction of Duke Park, which broke ground on Aug. 18 and is located at the new trail’s centerpoint. According to Classen, the previous playground in that location — the corner of Lincoln and Crescent Drive — was nameless.
Duke Park will feature an interactive water feature, a hand-crank train and a play area with a poured-in-place surface for kids Ages 2 to 12.
“I think the kids will really like it, between the water feature and the train, and the playground itself, which is really cool,” Classen said.
Another feature of the trail will be several “social spaces,” according to Classen, which will feature different seats in ideal locations along the trail.
“They’re just different places you can sit down and enjoy nature,” Classen added.
Classen said that one benefit of Connect Glencoe is that Green Bay Trail users will no longer have to go on the street in that area, because the trail does cut off around that area.
“It connects us at both ends to the Green Bay Trail,” she said.
The idea was first brainstormed in 2013, when the park district began gathering data for its master plan, which outlined the vision the park district had for the future of Glencoe’s outdoor and indoor spaces.
“From the master plan, we started identifying projects and putting away money,” Classen said. “The trail was one thing, but there were other projects that also came to light from that master plan.”
Classen said the park district began envisioning their plan for Connect Glencoe in 2018, and the master plan that outlined the project was accepted by the Park Board in Feb. 2019.
More than 80 percent of the project was funded through three grants altogether totaling $1.27 million. Connect Glencoe was first approved for a $200,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources as part of its Bicycle Path Grant Program in Aug. 2019.
The project also received a $667,150 Transportation AlternativesProgram Grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Board of Directors and the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee. A $400,000 grant came from the State of Illinois as part of its OSLAD Grants issued to more than 80 local open space projects.
According to park district documents, the district also received a $300,000 donation from the family of Sherri Takiff Zirlin, who had recently passed away, to go toward Connect Glencoe and specifically Duke Park.
The donation allowed the park district to purchase a poured-in-place surface for the new playground and the hand-cranked train. Duke Park is named after Zirlin’s beloved pet and will also feature a bench plaque in honor of Zirlin.
Connect Glencoe is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. Classen said there may be some landscaping done in the spring of 2021, but the playground and trails will be ready for usage within the next few months.
She added there were no construction delays or issues with funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the project has more excitement around it because of the amount of people who are out enjoying Glencoe’s parks since the stay-at-home order was issued in Illinois in March.
“There’s been a major uptick in park usage,” Classen said. “I think a lot of people are enjoying walking, biking and running. I think (the project) will be even more appreciated now.”
Erin is a freelance journalist based in the Chicago area. She most recently served as the editor of The Highland Park Landmark. Her work has also been featured in Chowhound, Choose Chicago, Eat This Not That, MSN and the Lake County News Sun.