Bob O'Shaughnessy, supervisor for the Worth Park District, holds up a sign that shows a plan for development of Altman Park that dates back to the early 1980s. A resolution was passed by the Worth Village Board that will allow Altman Park to be managed by the park district through a lease agreement with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. (Photos by Joe Boyle)
Altman Park eyed as a future recreation jewel in Worth
By Joe Boyle
When Bob O’Shaughnessy was appointed supervisor of the Worth Park District eight years ago, he had one main priority.
His primary goal was to have the area known as Altman Park be managed and cared for by the Worth Park District.
So, O’Shaughnessy was delighted when the Worth Village Board voted unanimously during a board meeting on Nov. 15 to approve a resolution that will allow Altman Park, near 115th and Beloit, to be leased to the park district through an arrangement with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
The supervisor said this may surprise many residents who were under the impression that Altman Park, which borders the Cal-Sag Channel south, the Terrace Centre to the north, and Water’s Edge Golf Course on the western end, was already part of the park district.
“A lot of people think that,” O’Shaughnessy said during an interview Friday. “But this is big. This is an opportunity to do more things. We want to develop the land and we have the original plans dating back to 1982. We will now work on a master plan that will be much different than 40 years ago.”
O’Shaughnessy displayed two plans that were drawn up during the 1980s that had an emphasis on baseball, softball and a football field. A lot has taken place since then, O’Shaughnessy said, and will currently include more land for soccer, which has grown in popularity.
But the supervisor and Mike McElroy, president of the Worth Park District Board, are both in agreement on one addition they would like to see — a new community center built on the Altman Park property.
“The dream is to build another community center,” O’Shaughnessy said. “The current building (Terrace Centre) is a former school and dates back to the 1940s. There will be a lot of ideas about a master plan from our staff, the village and the residents. Once we go over details with the village and the MWRD, we will hold community meetings to get input from residents. But that will be the fun part.”
McElroy added that it has always been a goal to lease Altman Park to the care of the park district for development.
“We got the wheels going for this about five years ago talking to the MWRD,” McElroy said. “What the park does best is providing recreation. Developing Altman Park would be ideal. We have a great team and they are working on it.”
Like most local municipalities, Worth has been hampered financially the past couple of years during the height of the pandemic. The Worth Park District has also been affected by COVID-19, which has created financial stress.
However, while further discussions have to take place with the village and the MWRD, O’Shaughnessy and McElroy see bright days ahead through financial assistance, including the Open Space Land Acquisition and Development Grant Program.
The OSLAD Grant Program provides up to about 50% funding assistance for eligible local units of government to acquire or develop public outdoor recreation areas.
“We are really excited to work with the MWRD,” McElroy said. “The master plan kind of gives us a road map.”
While the Terrace Centre has served the park district well for many years, another community center would be needed for the future, O’Shaughnessy said. The Terrace Centre has become antiquated and roof repairs and other major costs for the aging structure could be a financial drain, the supervisor said.
Over the years, the village has bought parcels of land. In the case of the area that now has Water’s Edge Golf Course and Altman Park, this property was leased through an agreement with the MWRD.
The idea was to build a golf course and develop over time the rest of the land. Worth Mayor Mary Werner said the project to build the golf course became a reality in the 1990s. The first rounds of golf were played at Water’s Edge in 1997.
After the golf course opened, future projects for the remaining property stalled.
“After the golf course was completed, they just ran out of money,” Werner said.
The mayor also mentioned that the golf course was losing money for years but has since broke even of late under new ownership. In relation to Altman Park, she said that it was best that the park district eventually manage the property. But due to various other financial concerns and other economic issues over the years, plans for Altman Park were put on hold, Werner said.
“It’s kind of sad that the property has not been used the way it could,” Werner said. “We used it for Worth Days when we held them and we rented it for other events like National Night Out.
“But we think (the agreement) will be a good thing,” Werner added. “A lot of things will have to be worked out. We had first really started talking about this in 2016. But then other things would come up. That’s just the way it goes sometimes when dealing with budgets.”
At this point, the park district does not manage the parking lot adjacent to Altman Park and the golf course. Werner said the boat launch is currently cared for in part by the village. The mayor said that a portion of the parking lot will most likely continue to be managed by the village in relation to the boat launch and the nearby driving range.
O’Shaughnessy said that Altman Park could one day feature an outdoor fitness area and plenty of space for sports in general. He believes a developed Altman Park will go well with the golf course.
“It is a beautiful course and to have a beautiful recreation center would really compliment that,” O’Shaughnessy said.
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