Call it Christmas in July as the Winnetka Park District had a summer gift for Winnetka Public Schools District 36.
The Winnetka Park Board on July 20 gave preliminary approval for the park district to convey two pieces of Crow Island Woods Park land to the school district.
One of the pieces, which is about 8,000 square feet, will allow for the school district space to overhaul and expand the gymnasium at Crow Island School. The renovation is one of several projects the district is pursuing with funding achieved as a result of its successful referendum in April.
The second piece, about 26,000 square feet, is and has been in use by the school district for decades. One of the playgrounds at Crow Island School is built on park district land, and as part of the agreement, the park district will hand over that space too.
“Conveyance of both properties at once will be an example of intergovernmental efficiency and will assist District 36 with project timelines,” said Kyle Berg, the park district’s facilities manager, in a board summary.
The issue did not come without discussion, however, as Park Commissioner Colleen Root questioned the conveyance, suggesting instead a licensing agreement or other alternatives to share the open space. She added that the school district and park district do not have identical coverage areas, and the district has an obligation to all its residents.
“I thought our mandate as a district was not only to conserve park land but acquire it, rather than convey it,” she said.
Commissioner Warren James said D36 and the park district consistently utilize each other’s spaces, including the playground and the gym, which often serves park district programming.
According the board summary, the topic was reviewed by the district’s attorney, who reportedly after exploring licensing, leasing and conveyance, determined that conveying the land would best mitigate the park district’s long-term liability.
While Root worried about the possibility of future changes to the conveyed land, Attorney David Simon mentioned the intergovernmental agreement would include a revertal clause to protect it. The clause would convey the land back to the park district should the school district attempt to convert it from a playground.
Commissioner Cynthia Root also expressed concern about the future of the playground land being out of the park district’s control.
The Park Board decided to split the topic into two motions. Commissioners unanimously supported conveying the 8,000 square feet for the school gym, and they voted 5-2 in favor — with Root and Rapp in dissent — of conveying the playground land.
Park district staff will create ordinances to formalize the two conveyances and present them for consideration at a future Park Board meeting.
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.