Fehr Graham helps clients secure funding for parks and recreation projects

Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced nearly $60 million in state grants awarded to 118 park projects throughout Illinois. Funding will help communities acquire land and develop park amenities.

Fehr Graham helped Fox Valley Park District in Aurora and Community Park in Davis Junction secure $600,000 each through Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grants. Each received the maximum granted funding.

This is the second OSLAD grant Fehr Graham has secured for the Village of Davis Junction. The first grant, announced in July 2022, awarded $100,000 to acquire 10 acres to expand Community Park. With the additional land, the Village is ready to implement the Master Plan for the most used park in the region. The proposed development includes a fishing pond, fishing pier, water play area/splash pad, shelter with restrooms, concession building expansion, baseball and softball fields, exercise station, fencing and lighting.

Fox Valley Park District plans to use its $600,000 grant to implement the first phase of improvements at Blackberry Crossing Park. The Park District can follow the Master Plan that Fehr Graham created for the 17-acre park, which features minimal recreational amenities. Plans include adding an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible playground, pickleball courts, multipurpose athletic fields, a concrete game plaza, two shade sail shelters, an asphalt path, a 30-space asphalt parking lot, bike racks and a pollinator habitat.

This is the largest round of OSLAD grants, which help communities fund land acquisition and park and outdoor recreation projects.

Today, I couldn’t be prouder to announce that Illinois DNR’s OSLAD program is offering the largest round of grants in the history of the program — nearly $60 million. The health and wellbeing of Illinoisans sits at the heart of the OSLAD program, and for the first time ever, we’ve been able to provide 100% of funding assistance to qualifying distressed recipients"

JB Pritzker, Governor

Established by the Illinois General Assembly in 1986, OSLAD is a cost-sharing program between state and local governments that is now one of the most popular Illinois grant programs. OSLAD has awarded more than $530 million for park projects throughout the state.

"I appreciate Governor Pritzker's push to increase state funding for the OSLAD program and also set aside money to ensure traditionally underserved communities are able to build and improve their parks," said DNR Director Natalie Phelps Finnie. "An investment in the outdoors is an investment in the health and well-being of the people of Illinois. We know that 83% of Illinoisans consider access to outdoor recreational opportunities important for them and their families. We also know that getting outside leads to better overall health."

To help facilitate the timely award of OSLAD grants, the Illinois DNR contracted with the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Institute for the Study of Environment, Sustainability and Energy. Fifteen graduate and undergraduate students served as supervised grant reviewers in a first-of-its-kind partnership.

"Our students are really excited about the impact this program will have on neighborhoods, communities and counties," said Thomas Skuzinski, Director of the institute. "They remember the impact that parks and open spaces had on the communities where they grew up, and they want others to be able to share in those experiences. The students are not only putting their expertise in environmental studies to good use but also are learning to work at a high level of professionalism with a state agency."

OSLAD grants typically provide up to 50% of funding for a project – excluding economically distressed communities where 100% of project costs have been covered. The other half is supplied by matching funds from the project's local government agency.