By Lauren Pinkston
Berwyn parks are losing close to $800,000 in grants due to budget cuts made by Gov. Bruce Rauner. Park districts across the state are affected by grant suspensions, including the Berwyn Park District and North Berwyn Park District.
Jeffrey Janda, executive director of the Berwyn Park District, explained the Berwyn Park District is loosing two grants. One for $87,500 that was intended to be used for land acquisition for a new park. The second was for $306,600 to renovate and redevelopment existing parks, especially their water drainage systems
The North Berwyn Park District is also reported to be losing about $400,000 in grants. Joseph Vallez, executive director of North Berwyn Park District, was unavailable for comment.
Janda explained the suspension could not only make these projects unattainable, they will affect potential job opportunities, storm water management, and currently existing programs.
Janda explained the Berwyn Park District is also involved in a suspended grant project with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources called Illinois Youth Recreation Corps.
“We were able to use this grant to hire about 30 youths to work in our parks last year. This year we won’t be able to do that,” Janda said.
According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Youth Recreation Corps, was created “to provide wages to youth operating and instructing in recreational and conservation programs for the benefit of other youth.”
The Youth Corps employed local teens, aged 16-19, to supervise and counsel other youths in recreational and learning activities.
The grant suspensions will also affect local establishments sponsored by the park district, including museums and pools.
Janda expressed his discontent with the suspensions of grants, but remains optimistic.
“Right now we’re planning to wait and see before beginning or cancelling the plans for our grant money,” Janda said, “There’s an effort to get the governor to return them.”
Janda hopes the grants are reinstated, but is uncertain because of the economic status of the state. He is primarily concerned about the outcome of the grant suspensions on the Berwyn community.
“People use the parks every day for a variety of reasons, such as fitness, children play areas, sports, recreation, events,” Janda said, “They’re a necessary component of the community.”