SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Nearly $60 million in state grants is going to 118 local park projects throughout the state, Governor Pritzker announced on Wednesday.

The allocation of these funds is a part of the Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program, which was designed to help communities fund land acquisition and development for parks and outdoor recreation projects.

However, this round of funding marks two milestones for the program: it is the largest round of funding in the 36-year history of the program and this round of funding will, for the first time ever, cover 100% of eligible projects located in economically distressed communities. 22 underserved locations will be included in receiving OSLAD grants.

“Today, I couldn’t be prouder to announce that IDNR’s OSLAD program is offering the largest round of grants in the history of the program – nearly $60 million,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “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.”

“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 IDNR 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.”

The following organizations will receive OSLAD grants for fiscal year 2023:

  • Champaign County
  • Effingham County
    • Village of Montrose – $600,000
  • Macon County
    • Macon County Conservation District – $300,000
  • Macoupin County
    • City of Benld – $600,000
    • Village of Palmyra – $600,000
  • Menard County
    • City of Petersburg – $173,355
  • Sangamon County
    • Springfield Park District – $600,000

One park district has already announced what they will use their grant for: the Springfield Park District intends to overhaul Gietl Park by adding perimeter fencing and gates, concrete plazas and walkways, park shelters, LED lighting, landscaping, seating, picnic tables and more.

The centerpiece of the Gietl Park project, however, will be the demolition of Veteran’s Memorial Pool, which is past its useful life, and its replacement with a modern splash pad designed for multiple age groups.

Photo courtesy of the Springfield Park District

“Improving Gietl Park is one of my top priorities,” said Leslie Sgro, President of the Springfield Park District Board. “Thanks to Governor Pritzker and the OSLAD grant, the Springfield Park District will be able to renovate a beloved neighborhood park in a distressed part of our community with exciting new facilities that can be enjoyed by all.”

The Springfield Park District plans to break ground on this project in the summer.