The following is a Letter to the Editor from a Wilmette resident who neighbors on Kenilworth Avenue, Jody Franson. . Like Wilmett-Kenilworth Patch on Facebook to join the conversation.
Recently, residents surrounding in Wilmette were notified is in the works to be installed in the green space of Thornwood Park. This proposed ice rink would have lighting installed, boards and dashers surrounding the ice surface. After polling the families around Thornwood Park, it has been revealed that a high majority of residents are opposed to having an ice hockey rink installed at Thornwood Park during the winters.
There are many reasons for residents to have this opinion. Some of the concerns are safety, loss of green space, noise, traffic, bothersome light, loitering, littering, esthetics and property value.
Beginning with safety, there is a real concern for area residents and school children walking to and from via Thornwood Park could be at risk from errant pucks. Harper School has after-school programs in the winter, and children may walk or bike home as late as 4:30 p.m. There have been serious injuries and deaths from pucks jumping over dashers and striking people. An extra area around the hockey rink would have to be provided to allow safe passage for bikers and pedestrians trekking through Thornwood Park. This would take more green space away from the park, and still will not guarantee the safety of children and adults in the park.
Green space is essential to the Thornwood Park residents. Although many Wilmette families do like the sport of hockey, there is interest and opportunity to be active in so many other ways in the green space of Thornwood Park. In the winter, many families cross-country ski, build snowmen, go sledding, and play football to name a few. The space is a big reason families choose Thornwood Park to live near.
Noise will be of concern to the area residents around Thornwood Park. By building the hockey rink in the proposed location, there will be fantastic acoustics for pucks slamming into the boards! Wintertime is a peaceful time in our neighborhood. The sounds from the slamming pucks will be heard loudly whether residents are inside or outside their homes. Considering Thornwood Park is surrounded by homes, it doesn’t seem like the best option to provide this type of activity due to the decibel levels. Residents will also hear sounds from the hockey players! A better park would be one such as West Park because there are significantly fewer residents around the park and the proximity of the homes would be farther away from the hockey rink.
Traffic has been a growing concern around Thornwood Park. Although Harper School has been a component of traffic for many years, that is expected. Residents move to the Thornwood Park area knowing that this is part of the convenience of being close to an elementary school.
At this point we don’t know what hockey programs the park district is hoping to provide at the proposed location, but being that hockey is primarily a team sport, there is opportunity for many players and spectators to be on and around the ice simultaneously. This means more parking problems and traffic surrounding Thornwood Park. The streets directly affected would be Dartmouth Street, Thornwood Avenue, Colgate Street and Kenilworth Avenue.
Speaking of spectators, having a hockey rink in the proposed area may encourage loitering in the park. This could lead to many unanticipated problems. Visitors may cause disturbances along all sides of the hockey rink. How can we monitor the area all day and into the night? Many homes back up to the proposed area.
Littering will be a natural occurrence of this addition to Thornwood Park. The hockey players will discard supplies for the game, energy drinks, food, etc. Spectators will also leave garbage.
Esthetically, how will a hockey rink look in the park? We are told lighting will be installed and boards and dashers around the ice surface. How high would the dashers be? How many lights are needed to light up the ice? Will the lighting bother the residents around the park? Will metal structures housing the lights be placed in areas of the park? Will this lead to lighting for baseball games at Thornwood Park in the spring and summer? How would this affect Thornwood Park environmentally?
I appeal to the Park Board Members to think about what changes will occur from this proposed hockey rink. How will the structure hurt property values in an already tough economy?
Will studies be done over these concerns before attempting to follow through with this project? What is the protocol by the Park Board for such a situation as this when it affects so many residents?
Again, I stress the reasons that homeowners purchase in the Thornwood Park area is for the seclusion, green space and close proximity to Harper School. Safety is a priority for these families.
Thornwood Park is a neighborhood park. Let’s keep it in the best interest of all the surrounding neighbors. Reconsider the “hockey only” ice rink proposal to be put at another location.
A Thornwood Park Neighbor