On a night when the Wilmette Park Board ushered in a new era of leadership, commissioners still faced a sense of familiarity.
Findings from a community survey were presented to commissioners during their Monday, May 8 meeting, detailing residential feedback on a variety of topics, including several that past boards have discussed.
Jeff Andreasen, the president of aQity Research and Insights, the firm that conducted the survey, walked commissioners through key takeaways from the data gathered during the six-week collection period.
Invitations to participate in the online survey — a vital component to the district’s Project Parks and Play initiative — were sent to all of the 10,000-plus homes in Wilmette, Andreasen said, adding that reminder postcards were delivered to nonrespondents in early March before the mid-month deadline.
The survey had a 12 percent response rate, equalling 1,201 completed surveys, according to Andreasen, who noted that rate was “higher than normal.”
“We do these community surveys for other agencies and we typically see a 5-8 percent response rate, so the response rate in Wilmette was more than double what we would typically see,” Andreasen added.
Commissioner Kara Kosloskus, who was elected the new Park Board president during the meeting, said that she is “so pleased that we have such a high response rate,” thanking commissioners, the board’s advisory panel and the public “for helping to drive participation to what we got.”
Using census data and survey data, the firm created a weighted sample that matches the demographics and regional distribution of Wilmette, Andreasen said, adding this allows for a data sample that “from a demographic standpoint is representative of the entire community.”
Nearly 90 percent of respondents gave the park district a favorable overall rating (at least 6 on a 0-10 scale). Approximately 35 percent ranked the district as either a 9 or 10 on the scale, while only 7 percent gave a score below 4.
Residents identified the variety of programming, parks — including beaches and lakefront spaces — and well-maintained properties as the park district’s greatest strengths.
Data collectors found less of a consensus in residents’ responses to the district’s greatest weakness. Ten percent of respondents cited fees and costs, while 7 percent said park properties are too developed and should be more natural.
Andreasen said that nearly every respondent reported at least someone in their household has been to a Wilmette Park District park, playground or nature area in the past year. The highest percentage of respondents, 94 percent, said they’ve visited Gillson Park in the last year, while 66 percent said Centennial Park.
Residents listed outdoor trails for hiking, walking and biking when asked what outdoor facility should be the No. 1 priority for the park district; however, 16 percent of respondents, the second highest total for this question, listed “none” as the top priority. Natural areas for passive recreation and a fenced-in dog park tied for the third most frequent response with outdoor pickleball coming in fifth.
Most residents showed support for an indoor pool, with 46 percent expressing interest and 29 percent listing it as their top priority for an indoor facility. Both marks were the highest in the indoor amenities section.
Results again showcased a sense of satisfaction with indoor facilities as 24 percent listed “none” as their top priority. An indoor fitness facility and indoor pickleball courts were the next highest answers.
Approximately half of the respondents listed health and wellness, stewardship and sustainability, public safety, customer safety and fiscal responsibility as their preferences for the core values of the park district.
The survey results are a key component of the Wilmette Park District’s Project Parks and Play, a 12- to 18-month, feedback-heavy process to develop long-term park district plans for everything from park facilities to recreational activities to internal operations, as previously reported by The Record.
Officials from BerryDunn, the project’s lead consultant, plan to next complete their analysis of the park district, combine it with the survey results and begin drafting initial comprehensive and strategic plans, according to a memo from Steve Wilson, the park district’s executive director. Once completed, park officials will seek additional public input and feedback, he added.
Changing of the Guard: Kosloskus takes over for Murdock as Park Board president; Duffy is VP
During a special meeting that preceded the board’s regular business, commissioners elected Kara Kosloskus, the board’d vice president, via a unanimous vote as the board’s next president.
Kosloskus replaces commissioner Michael Murdock, who served two terms as board president (2021-’23). Murdock won the board’s presidency via a split vote (4-3) in 2021 and in 2022 — in both elections Kosloskus sided with Murdock.
Commissioners also unanimously elected Patrick Duffy as the board’s vice president. Duffy also voted for Murdock’s presidency in both prior elections.
A group of residents criticizing Murdock’s leadership organized a campaign near the election in opposition of his re-election bid. Murdock, however, won his re-election bid, finishing fourth out of the five candidates.
The Park Board also welcomed its newest member, Patrick Lahey, after showing gratitude for outgoing Commissioner Lindsay Anderson, who served nearly two years on the board. Anderson, a former gubernatorial advisor and state education executive, was appointed to an empty seat on the board in September of 2021 to fill a slot vacated by Todd Shissler.
“It’s been such a privilege to serve as part of the Wilmette Park District team,” Anderson said. “I just truly appreciate the talented staff, the dedication of the board and all of your unique perspectives and the value that they bring. It’s been an honor to serve alongside the entire team and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.”
Re-elected commissioners Murdock, Julia Goebel and Cecilia Clarke joined Lahey in taking the oath of office.
‘A very unique situation that I hope never happens again’
A fire in the parking lot of Wilmette’s Centennial Recreation Complex on May 2 created quite an issue for local officials.
Items on a waste management truck caught fire and the truck pulled into the centennial parking lot and dumped the burning load in the center of the lot, Wilson said while explaining the situation during his report at the meeting.
Wilmette’s fire department then responded to the scene to extinguish the fire. While doing so, the nearby hydrant, once in action, broke a pipe that led into the front entrance of Centennial, Wilson said.
The building was then evacuated, because water had to be turned off completely, Wilson said, noting that it reopened the next day but required work “through the night” from park and village staff to make that happen.
Wilson thanked everyone involved for their quick response and teamwork in handling the situation.
“Everyone worked together really nicely to address a very unique situation that I hope never repeats itself,” he said.
The Record is a nonprofit, nonpartisan community newsroom that relies on reader support to fuel its independent local journalism.
Subscribe to The Record to fund responsible news coverage for your community.
Already a subscriber? You can make a tax-deductible donation at any time.
Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.