To the Editor: Recapture Park Forest’s Progressive Roots

To the Editor:

Like many long-time residents of Park Forest, I am dismayed by the crumbling infrastructure I see around our village. It so happens that the streetlight outside my house, knocked down by a car during the holidays, has yet to be replaced. But one does not have to look far to see the crumbling curbs, potholes, sidewalks and housing stock. Our area abounds in foreclosures emblematic of the current economic crisis. Still, many of us opened our property tax bills recently to see a sizable increase in our levy.

This crisis in Park Forest and its identity as showcase “planned community,” proud pioneer of racial integration, has been a long time in the making and goes beyond the current slump. A combination of poor taxing circumstances, shifting demographics ,and regional neglect have left our village in a difficult spot. Faced with these daunting structural problems, we have shown little in the way of creativity or big thinking to find a vision for Park Forest’s future.

The famous “planned community” needs a new plan—bold, innovative, and providing means to engage the urgent issues of our time.

Park Forest’s most successful recent projects have been environmental—the reclamation of Thorn Creek, Central Park, and the Plank Road Trail as prairie ecological zones. Perhaps the leaders of Park Forest could find a way to apply the same “Green Thinking” to our community as a whole by seeking funding and partners to turn the whole village into a prototypical “Green Community,” providing incentives to renovate and rebuild our housing stock with energy efficient features and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Perhaps we could “retrofit” the village in the style of upscale communities like Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, encouraging and offering incentives to residents to revert our yards and our parks to native prairie.

Park Forest could return to its position of leadership nationally by embracing President Obama’s “Green Industries” vision and attract green industries to some of our abandoned and neglected commercial zones, generating jobs and showcasing our village as a leading example of a green economy.

In any case, one hopes that our village leaders are lobbying vigorously for our share of economic stimulus funds for infrastructure and new projects. Park Forest cannot fall further behind; now is the time for action, especially when we have an administration in Washington headed by a man who may actually know where Park Forest is.

Christian Anderson
Park Forest