Wheaton, Ill. – The Wheaton Park District has been awarded a $400,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program provides funding for projects that encourage outdoor recreation, including projects such as the reconstruction of Memorial Park.
When Memorial Park was first acquired by the Wheaton Park District nearly 100 years ago, the property was a part of the former estate of Judge Elbert Gary. It is located on a square city block just north of the downtown business district in Wheaton, centrally located in DuPage County. It is bordered by homes to the north and east, small businesses to the south, as well as city hall, an elementary school and a church.
Remaining from the Gary estate was a coach house that has been transformed into the Mary Lubko Center that serves active adults. In the 1950s the municipal band director, Art Sweet, spearheaded an effort to raise funds and construct a band shell. In 2007, the band shell was renamed the Art Sweet Band Shell. Other additions to the park included restrooms and a concession building. Horseshoe pits were also converted into a small Pétanque court; a game similar to bocce.
In addition to these uses, the park has become an anchor point for several events throughout the year. These events include the Cosley Zoo Run for the Animals, the Taste of Wheaton, Music Mondays, Wheaton Brew Fest, Shakespeare in the Park, the Festival of Cultures and weekly summer concerts from the Municipal Band. Wheaton Park District estimates indicate that nearly 50,000 people benefit from these events every year.
Construction of Memorial Park will consist of a modernized band shell, which will be moved closer to the corner of the park and replace the tennis courts. Construction is planned to start in fall 2019.
“The existing tennis court has been deteriorating for several years since its use is being met elsewhere in the community,” Wheaton Park District Executive Director Mike Benard said. “By removing it, we can create the new band shell closer to the corner of the park and expand the green space available by 20%. Feedback from our neighbors reduced landscape screening and permanent band seating to allow an open concept that permits more un-programmed active use of the park.”
Throughout the park, other amenities would include a new path layout, a new larger Pétanque court that would also provide a location for tents during special events, and a designated memorial location. Throughout the area, native landscaping will be planted to provide aesthetic enhancements and environmental benefits.
Written by: Gina Catalano