This is an interview with Bud Osterling on December 11, 1980.
The interviewer is Bonita Dillard.
Q. Bud, could you tell me something about your background, where you originated from?
A. Well, I was raised in Glen Ellyn; that's my hometown. As a matter of fact, both my wife and I are from the same high school, Glenbard High School. I'm a civil engineering graduate from Purdue University. After I graduated from Purdue, I worked for a year and a half or so in field engineering in Canada during the war. After that, following a rather extensive illness, I got in the planning field in Indiana, with the State Planning Board, actually called the Indiana Economic Council. I was ten years in Indiana, most of the time working for the Indiana Economic Council, but also for two different planning consultants, before I came "back home," you might say, and that was to Park Forest. In 1954, Walter Blucher, who was then Director of the American Society of Planning Officials in Chicago and Chairman of the Park Forest Plan Commission, and who I had grown to know quite well in my ten years in Indiana in the planning field, told me about the Planner's position being open in Park Forest. It was through him, actually, that I came to Park Forest and interviewed for the job of village planner. Somewhat ironically, I had always admired Walter, and I looked on this Park Forest possibility as an opportunity to more or less work under him, inasmuch as he was Chairman of the Plan Commission, and I would be working, of course, with the Plan Commission. However, after I got here and had accepted the job, I learned that Walter had just resigned from
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that post, (laughter) so that opportunity escaped me, ‑ the one of working under him.
Q. I know that was a big surprise.
A. Yes, it was.
Q. And he probably didn't tell you he had resigned.
A. No. It was a complete shock, because I had committed myself. I don't know whether it would have made any difference, but it was, as I say, somewhat ironic.
Q. Was it an abrupt - you don't know anything about the resignation?
A. No, I don't recall all the circumstances. I think he just felt he had served his time or some such thing. However, for a period, anyway, I used to keep in contact with Walter regarding the Park Forest situation. He was still interested in it, of course. He was moving from town at that time, also.
Q. Oh, boy! Well, you came here early in the days of Park Forest's development, could you tell me something about the phases of the development? What was it like when you got here?
A. Okay. As I say, I came on May the first of 1954 that was when I started on the job. I had visited Park Forest on two occasions previously, because, of course, it had a reputation as a rather novel or ambitious type of development. When I arrived here, most of the area south of Sauk Trail had been built up. At that time, the last homes in the newest subdivision, which was down in the "T" area, the southwest part of town, were being occupied and, as a matter of fact, in looking for housing we were down there looking at some of the model homes, which were the last ones to be sold.
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As far as the further development of the Village was concerned, at that time the Plan Commission had just been introduced to ‑‑ that is, the developer had submitted a preliminary plan for ‑‑ the remaining areas of Park Forest that were then under ACB's [American Community Builders] control, which included, generally, the area north of Sauk Trail, except, of course, for the original multi‑family area, and that would have been the Lakewood subdivision, the Westwood area, which was divided into two stages of development, and Lincolnwood. Now, at that time the only thing that had been approved was the Lakewood subdivision, and they were just starting to grade out the streets. The Westwood areas and the Lincolnwood areas were totally fallow ground. I remember tramping through marshes and heavy, heavy growth with Al Heitmann, our village engineer, and Joe Schudt, the developer's engineer, trying to visualize on the ground what they had submitted on paper.
Q. Okay, and then how did it progress after you came?
A. That's a big question. (Laughs)
Q. For instance, like. . . .
A. Well, that time, in the very early days of Park Forest's incorporation, village government was very much-overwhelmed ‑‑ because the developer, of course, had prepared development plans and subdivision plans for, the entire area south of Sauk Trail. It comprised about six separate subdivisions, and the Village was faced with having to approve these subdivisions in rather short order. Now this all preceded my arrival but I know it was very much a traumatic experience, because the developer was primed to go and it was difficult for the Village personnel to really wrap themselves around such a large program.
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one incident I'll always remember that occurred before I came to Park Forest; (as I said, I was associated with the American Society of Planning officials, of which Walter Blucher was the director and Dennis O'Harrow was the assistant director at the time, which was in the early fifties when Dennis O'Harrow was the village president, the first village president). I recall coming to Chicago on one occasion, visiting Dennis O'Harrow in his office, and clearly recall Dennis as a very red‑eyed individual, as he told us of the trials and tribulations and the long hours he had been spending as village president in dealing with the problems of this new community. And I learned first‑hand what he was talking about after I got here, because there were many, many long hours of Plan Commission and Board of Trustees meetings. I remember one in particular which went until two‑thirty in the morning, (laughter) which was dealing with the final stages of approving the first section of the Westwood subdivision.
Q. Okay. So the Village Plan Commission had a lot of input as to how the plans progressed, or what was going to be allowed?
A. Very much. And it was quite a struggle, very much a struggle. The developer, of course, was able to swing a considerable amount of weight. He was somewhat like a Goliath, in my view, dealing with the Village of Park Forest in a David role. However, the Village had some very, very talented personnel, both elected and appointed. They stood their ground and insisted, with a vengeance, on something that the developer had advocated, that is, a planned community, an ideal type of community, and the then‑residents and Village officials, in particular, took this up with a vengeance and insisted on even higher standards than the
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developer, perhaps, had in mind, and were very successful in accomplishing them, at considerable odds.
Q. Park Forest had a single developer. I remember reading something about the advantages and disadvantages of having one, since most communities have more than one.
A. That's right. In the more normal type of community development, you're dealing with a multiplicity of developers over a period of time and it is very difficult to fit these small piecemeal‑type developments into a general pattern. These are the type of problems I had been dealing with prior to coming to Park Forest, trying to coordinate a multiplicity of developers, but in the case of Park Forest with the single developer, he is able, and the Village is able, to look at an overall concept and know that there is a much better opportunity to actually accomplish what is being proposed. And especially since ACB was intent on developing at a rather rapid rate, there was the opportunity to be involved in the development of a plan, and within a year or two actually see it on the ground, which is rather unusual. Of course, some of the disadvantages are that the developer had much greater advantages over the Village, in terms of their size and the money that they had at their disposal, while the Village was still trying to get its feet on the ground. It was still relatively young while all this very intensive development was going on, so there had to be a considerable amount of learning, and it was kind of hard ‑‑ it was very difficult ‑‑ to not control the developer, but try and prevail in some of the planning concepts and objectives that the Village was trying to accomplish.
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Q. Now the ACB developers had certain plans for Park Forest and then the Village had some ideas. Can you talk about some of the differences? A. Yes. In general terms, as I mentioned before, the village officials took an even more idealistic attitude toward the future than even the developers envisioned, I believe. There were very difficult struggles in resolving the differences that developed between what ACB was proposing and what the village wanted to attain. And, it was my view that, in initial presentation of a new development plan for a new subdivision, in particular ‑ it was apparent that, as time went on, the initial positions became further and further apart vis-à-vis the developers' initial proposal and the Village's initial demands. So there was a great deal of negotiating that had to occur until there was final agreement on the details of a new development.
The matter of open space, adequate land for schools and for recreation and open space; standards of street improvements; lot sizes, there were just a multiplicity of items where, understandably, ACB tended to offer considerably less than they were prepared to give finally. They held something in reserve. The village, on the other hand, was somewhat idealistic at times. Not totally idealistic, perhaps, but they certainly were looking for more than the developer was willing to give up.
The matter of schools, of course, was a very difficult problem, because the newly formed school district had very limited resources. Not only was the tax base low, but revenues from new assessed value time lagged 1‑2 years behind home completions and occupancy. The developer ended up donating school sites . . . not as an act of benevolence but as a matter
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of necessity in satisfying a self‑serving interest. The school district didn't have money to buy them and the community couldn't go on without these public facilities such as schools, and so the developer had to step in and actually loan operating money to both the school district and the village during those first years, since tax money was limited if not non‑existent. Taxes from a new development weren't ‑ still aren't ‑immediately realized. The taxing bodies don't get this money for about a year and a half or so after the houses are occupied. So you continually have a population that requires various municipal services including schools, considerably before tax monies become available.
I guess you don't really think about it when you see a school there, you don't think about the fact [of] the money that went in to get it.
A. Yes. I don't remember all the details, inasmuch as it occurred before I came here, but the developer actually built some of the first schools and they were paid for in subsequent years by the school districts, as they were able to get tax money.
Q. Oh, so it's like the [school board], they pay them back, then?
A. Yes. The buildings were leased and eventually the school district paid for and acquired them; there was just no way that they could have been built without some developers' financial assistance.
Q. So the lands for the schools, is that the only contribution that the
developer gave? The land contribution.
A. Combination school‑park lands were also donated. They also gave land for the village hall and some of the early church sites. As I say, it was giving, but it wasn't benevolence, it was a self‑serving interest. The development of the community would have ground to a halt,
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almost, without these considerations being given by the developer. Enlightened self-interest, you might say. (Laughter)
Q. Right. So in the long run it was going to sell more houses.
Q. What was the relationship between ACB and the village officials? I know that you said that there were some differences.
A. There was considerable bitterness at times. On more than one occasion the developer threatened to toss in the whole thing and get out of Park Forest. There was some question about how serious he was, but it sounded very serious on a couple of occasions. However, the differences seemed to get resolved. Not always by the twelfth hour; sometimes it was after the twelfth hour, believe me. There were lulls of a week or two weeks when there was no communication at all. The village was still sticking to its guns on what it thought was right, what it needed, and wondering whether there was going to be any more development, really.
Q. Was Klutznick the one who represented the builders?
A. Yes. Well, of course, Phil Klutznick was the ‑‑ I don't know his exact title; I think it was President ‑‑ but at some point about the time I got here, or shortly after, Phil Klutznick more or less removed himself from the active scene. He certainly didn't lose interest, but he became involved in other ventures, I believe, and the day‑to‑day exercise of ACB policy in the village was taken over by, I believe, Sam Beber, primarily, who was Phil's, I believe, brother‑in‑law. Sam was the executive on the job.
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Sam's personality was considerably different than Phil's. He was certainly a good businessman, somewhat hard. He was more difficult, in my view, to deal with than, perhaps, was Phil Klutznick. On some of these occasions when there was such a difficult stalemate, I also recall that the village officials would try and pull Phil Klutznick back into the scene as a final arbiter. And Phil was just that on several occasions; he was able to get things back on track towards final resolution, when it had previously appeared that everything was lost.
Q. With the zoning policies, what were ‑‑ for subdivision approval? What went into determining what type of home was going to be built, for instance, in Lincolnwood, or Eastgate, and how did the village feel about these homes, what should go where, and why?
A. ACB was quite free to build the type of home it felt there was a market for. Lot size was quite a battle at one time. For example, the Eastgate section, which has predominantly fifty-foot lots, were smaller than the village's minimum of sixty-foot frontage.
The initial single-family home construction, first occupied in 1951, was more than a thousand two‑bedroom homes of solid masonry with radiant heat in the floor. Subsequently, all home construction was of three or more bedrooms to meet the demonstrated need for somewhat larger housing. One of the things that the early home development had was the combination curb and sidewalk. Most of the area south of Sauk Trail has that feature which has created a lot of problems through the ensuing years and we're still cursed with it today. It, of course, was a more economical way to build. It also gave the illusion of more spacious front yards, when actually the area for seven and a half feet or more
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back of the walk is still street right of way, but it gave more green in front of the house. But the curb/sidewalk has many problems. It is not as safe for the average pedestrian, to say nothing of the children who use it as a playground; it's immediately exposed to the street. It has become a very difficult situation for snow removal. There is no way you can remove snow without piling it on the sidewalk. This was subsequently outlawed in the subdivision regulations in late 1953.
Another feature of the home development that has created problems through the years is the dual use of sanitary sewer service. That is, sanitary sewer service from two adjacent houses comes together into a common line before it goes into the street sewer. This, of course, was another way of economizing, but, subsequently, has created a lot of problems. Sewer with two owners on the same line, there is not always agreement to share repair costs. Very often, only one of the parties is suffering from a sewer backup, he being the lower one, and it doesn't always affect his neighbor who is tied in and so the neighbor doesn't feel that he has any responsibility to correct a problem. This is a difficult situation that's occurring more and more as time goes on, with the growth of trees and roots entering the sewers.
Q. I can understand that because if nothing is the matter with your sewer, why should you pay?
A. That's right. And one of the more difficult situations is where the culprit ‑‑ that is, the tree that is causing the problem ‑‑ is on the lot of the owner who is not suffering from a back‑up in his house, and he doesn't want to get rid of the tree. So it's not a good situation. Again, an amendment to the subdivision regulations in late 1953
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prohibited such dual use sewers, but, by that time, a large portion of the village had already been built.
Q. Okay. The village developed rapidly. When you mentioned in 1953 large portions of the village had already been built, can you tell about that?
A. The initial development was the multiple‑family area. Three thousand and ten dwelling units I believe. Initial ground breaking for these was in 1947, and they were completely occupied in 1949 or 1950. Then they started on the single‑family homes development, and I believe the first home was occupied in early 1951. As a sidelight, the house we're talking from now, 111 Peach Street was one of the models in the first home construction. I don't have the number of homes in mind ‑certainly over 1,000 ‑‑ but in early 1954, when I came here, everything south of Sauk Trail, with very few exceptions, was completely built out, so you can see the pace of development was very rapid. In all of that area I think there was five different subdivision plats, which they were dumped in the village's lap for approval at essentially the same time. There was great pressure for prompt approval so that construction could proceed, and this put an extreme burden on the newly established government. The approvals occurred prior to my coming to town; in fact, these areas were almost completely built out by that time.
Q. In zoning for commercial uses, how is it divided, where the commercial properties are?
A. From the very early days, the developer, ACB, had developed a general concept for all of Park Forest. Early plans showed Lincolnwood as an industrial area, I believe. There had been good minds, certainly,
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that had been applied in planning this new community. The developer had employed good consulting services, so that the location of schools, public spaces, housing, commercial areas had been shown on paper. There had been a concept. Some of those maps are interesting today in terms of how Park Forest has developed both in general conformance to the very early plans and also how it has departed considerably, as time went on. It was a case of the developer submitting his proposals through the usual procedure, and the village interjecting some of its thinking which in some cases were contrary. That's where battles developed and negotiations ensued.
Q. For instance, I've heard you say that some of the early plans ‑‑ for instance, Lincolnwood was one place. But then the village, was it the village that would decide to change, or did the developer come up with a new proposal to change these areas? Some commercial or industrial?
A. Well . . . I'm trying . . .
Q. Or it's a standard procedure?
A. Well, as I say, the developer would submit his overall plan for the development, and it certainly wasn't accepted at first blush by the village. The village officials and the Plan Commission very often had somewhat different concepts of what they would like to see happen ‑‑ the location of commercial areas and open spaces, for example. The village certainly didn't always accept what the developer initially proposed. The layout of streets was always an issue, major streets, the continuity of streets, these became subject to much controversy. The location of schools, both in terms of location and adequate land for school sites, was a continual struggle. There was a tendency for the developer to
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offer school sites and park and recreation sites on land that was marginal. There was a considerable amount of peaty ground in Park Forest that was not suitable for home development, at least, certainly not without extreme cost. So these tended to become, logically or otherwise, school and recreation sites. Not all bad, but there was a continual battle to try and obtain enough what we called buildable land, in connection with this marginal land, to construct school buildings or park structures. One of the other concerns about school and park sites was exposure to the street. There was a tendency by the developer to ring the perimeter of a public area with homes; that is, back up homes to park sites leaving very little frontage onto a street. I think some of the change that occurred through village's insistence is evident by looking at some of the park and school sites south of Sauk Trail in the early part of town and then later on in the Lincolnwood, Westwood, and Lakewood subdivisions. You will find a lot more street exposure in the latter.
Q. Yes. Lakewood is quite open.
A. Yes. Well, originally they had a lot more homes proposed along Lakewood than there is today.
Q. Thank goodness, because I live near there.
I think I'm going to have to turn this over, because it's running out. (End of side 1)
A. Yes. An important concept of community planning at the time, and one which was implemented to a large extent in Park Forest, was to create neighborhoods within which certain elements such as schools and recreation areas were within convenient walking distance without having
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to cross major traffic ways or other potential hazards. In actuality, however, this has been difficult, if not impossible to accomplish fully. Initially, school building construction usually lagged well behind establishment of the population in new developments; this necessitated sending students to established school buildings outside their neighborhoods. A certain amount of this "transferring" out of a neighborhood was necessary also during the earlier days of extremely high student populations, which exceeded the capacity of a neighborhood school. In time, as the community reached a more settled and stable condition, the neighborhood school concept began to function more as intended . . . but not for long.
More recently ‑ within the last five years or so, integration of the schools has contributed greatly to a breakdown of the neighborhood concept. Extensive busing has been necessary to accomplish this, especially in and out of the Beacon Hill (Forest Heights) area where the population has become predominantly, if not totally, black. An irony about the Beacon Hill area, which lies east of Western Avenue and between the two railroads, is that though originally owned by ACB, it is in Chicago Heights and was zoned and intended for industrial development. With prospects of an industrial tax base and no children, it was optimistically included in the newly created School District 163. However, in the mid 60's after District 163 had pretty much stabilized, the successor to ACB (comprised of former principals of ACB) got Chicago Heights to rezone this quarter square mile area to residential and developed it accordingly. Thus an unanticipated new school had to be built for a school population that is quite detached physically and in
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another municipality. So, what had initially been looked upon as a distinct plus for the School District has turned into something of a burden.
Q. Okay. Crete-Monee, like Talala, that's not in Park Forest. It's in
Park Forest, but it's in Crete‑Monee's district.
A. Yes, it's another school district. There were efforts to have a single elementary school district in Park Forest; there was a school consolidation committee to further this end. In 1954, when I came here, there had been very strong efforts to bring the Will County portion of Park Forest into School District 163. That was not successful. I don't know all the reasons, but apparently the people down there, or else the school district, wasn't too receptive to it. There were also efforts [in] a small section of the original multi‑family section, east of Western Avenue and south of Cedar, roughly.
Q. That's in Steger.
A. That's in Steger district, and the Steger district wouldn't disconnect that; one of their reasons being, at least as far as the superintendent was concerned, is that he liked to have his students exposed to the Park Forest population. He thought it was a good mix. Then, of course, Lincolnwood was developed, which is in the Matteson school district 162. 1 don't really recall any strong efforts to bring that into 163.
Q. A little while ago you were talking about homes and the different types of homes that were built. I heard something about "cookie‑press homes."
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A. Yes. That was a term that was used on more than one occasion. Cookie press, meaning like ‑‑ like homes. (pounds fist on table in imitation of cutting cookies.) The first example of this occurred in the Eastgate area, which at the time was a very modest cost house. In fact, I believe it was under $10,000, only by $5.00 maybe, but it was a rather spacious home, certainly for that amount of money. And I believe it was called an expandable home; the upstairs was unfinished, but there were two bedrooms down and the opportunity to build two more bedrooms upstairs. $10,000 was a very modest price and the developer referred to it in terms of providing lower cost housing for retail clerk‑type people, postmen, blue‑collar workers. That was what the developer had in mind. Now, it was a house that was very similar to the Levittown development in the East. But the significance is that all of the homes in the Eastgate area are identical. It's street after street, you can stand at the end of a block and count the number of houses all the way down by just picking a chimney or a corner of a house. Of course, this is especially so when it's originally developed, because you don't have the softness that develops as trees and landscaping mature and property owners make modifications to the structures themselves. That was the first example of "cookie press."
However, in later years, during the development of the Westgate‑Westwood subdivision, in the vicinity of Westgate and Central Park, the village didn't really realize it until it was almost a fact, that again they had chosen a house that was a story and a half and decided to build block after block of nothing but that house. Prior to this, the developer had done a very commendable job in building essentially the same floor plan,
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but with different appearing exteriors. The initial two‑family home development had at least fourteen different models, of the same basic house accomplished by reversing floor plans, varying roof lines, etc., so that, actually, the overall appearance did not "scream" identical housing. Getting back to the Westgate and Central Park Avenue area again, the housing stock had consistently been getting better, through the years. They were building larger houses. And here, in what was suddenly built block after block of this identical home. The village attempted to put a stop to it but the cat was out of the bag, or the dye was cast, I believe. The village did threaten to invoke an architectural control ordinance, which disturbed the developer no end. I remember Phil Klutznick ‑‑ there must be a letter on record someplace, a significant section of the Westwood area with this "cookie press" type of development, which I think most anybody will agree is not the most desirable thing; it doesn't negate good housing stock, but it doesn't add to an interesting neighborhood. Today, of course, it isn't as noticeable as it was back then, when everything was so naked. (Laughter)
Q. You could see it, right, then?
A. We had another, less serious incident of that practice in the development of Lincolnwood, which again aroused us to be critical and insist that the developer do no more of it. I refer to the homes that back up to Lincoln Highway. Again, they are identical housing with rooflines identical and the corners of the structures in the same
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location. You can stand at the end [of the block] and count forty houses, there's forty houses down there and you can see the same part of every one of them.
Q. That's something that, if you don't catch it right away, then it
could destroy a whole community.
A. It certainly doesn't add to a neighborhood.
Q. Well, it wouldn't seem to me that it would be a desirable place. It wouldn't attract the same type of prospective homeowner if every house is the same.
Q. When you first came, where was your office located?
A. Now that's an interesting question. There's quite a story behind it. The Village Hall, at that time, was in what is now a portion ‑it's only a portion ‑‑ of the public safety building, police and fire. But, the village had passed a bond issue and they were in the process of building what is, again, a portion of the Village Hall. When I came in 1954, the Public Works Department was headquartered out at the Norwood shopping center in a farmhouse building. I believe ACB had earlier had some office in that building. In conjunction with it there was a large barn, which was still being used by ACB for its construction quarters. But Al Heitmann, the Public Works Director, and George McCarthy, who was then Building Inspector, had their offices in this old frame two‑story farm building on what is now the Norwood shopping center site. It was on a hill. And I was relegated to setting up my office in that building, also, up on the second floor.
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Well, it was heated rather crudely. It had oil space heaters. In those days, as I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of late meetings. I came here from Indianapolis and it was six months before I was able to sell my house in Indianapolis, and move to Park Forest. During those six months I commuted during the week to my folks in Glen Ellyn, most of the time, and weekends I'd commute to Indianapolis. Because of the late meetings and so on, I moved a cot in upstairs in the farm building and not infrequently used to sack out there at night, (with the mice, I might add). It was an hour's drive to Glen Ellyn, so I'd save two hours, a good two hours, on those every night. Then I think we moved into the new Village Hall in 1955, so I spent a full year out there, I believe, in somewhat crude accommodations. But they were spacious, more spacious than the other village personnel had back at the Public Safety Building, because they would meet in what was the squad room, and it also had the single jail cell opening out into the squad rooms, so not infrequently there would be somebody detained in the squad room who was able to, not participate, but certainly listen in to all kinds of board meetings.
That could have been interesting! (Laughs)
Q. Can you kind of tell me how you feel ‑‑ Well, what do you think the benefits are of Park Forest being a planned community? Can you tell me something about that? And then the disadvantages.
A. There are economies and efficiencies built in by being a planned community that are certainly difficult, and, in some cases, maybe even impossible to attain as compared to a piece‑meal type of development with a multiplicity of developers. There's an opportunity to better
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plan and realize the type of development that is based on the best planning principles and objectives. I don't know of any real disadvantages. Being a planned community doesn't offer a disadvantage, but I think that the pace of development presents something of a disadvantage, especially to a new community that is having difficulty just getting established, without having to deal with rather massive and very rapid development. There just isn't the opportunity to get yourself around all the problems that are immediately down the road.
To Park Forest's credit, there was a very remarkable group of individuals in those early days. They were not only dedicated, but they were very competent people. They were . . . very professional people, even though they were somewhat young. They had spirit, desire, and a lot of things going for them, so that today's generations have a lot to be grateful for. It was that caliber of personnel that got involved in community efforts.
Q. Is there anything else that I have not asked you that you would like
to speak of?
A. I think of one thing, rather humorous, although it was tragic at the time. It concerns the early development of Central Park ‑‑ the roughly sixty acre tract that now has Freedom Hall and the Aqua Center with a large expanse of open space to the north and west of them. Only that portion south of the drainage ditch has any really buildable prospects at all, the rest being so deep in peat ‑‑ up to 30 feet ‑‑ that it has little or no feasibility for development. At one time there was a proposal to build a golf course on the peaty portion of Central Park, and a great deal of effort, and actually there was a consultant who
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designed the course, but a great deal of controversy arose over the practicality of even a golf course, inasmuch as any bunkers or raised portions would likely sink from their own weight in a short time. The weight of any overburden of earth or sand would just not be supported and it would be a constant maintenance problem. But getting back to my story; the entire area remained strictly wild, for years. It was somewhat unsightly, in that it was just a wild area of weeds and cattails right in the middle of town. The Aqua Center was built, but that's about all. There wasn't too much pressure to clean it up until a three-year-old youngster drowned in a pothole at a remote interior location. This generated quite a concern, but only to the extent that potentially hazardous areas were graded off. It remained something of an eyesore. There was also occasional problems with grass fires and, in fact, this was probably the one thing that triggered efforts to remedy an eyesore and potentially hazardous area. One Fall it took the fire department over a month of constant watering to put out a grass fire that ignited the peat ‑‑ the odor of burning peat can be most unpleasant. Now the heat was really on to spruce this area up.
Al Heitmann, Director of Public Works was in charge of developing most of our park areas. He spent one whole summer tilling the ground on the theory that repeated cultivation would kill most of the weed seeds. One not so humorous incident in these cultivating and grading operations was the near permanent loss of a large grading machine that almost sank out of sight in the soft peat. In order to economize, Heitmann's approach was to seed the area in the fall, hopeful that as in planting winter wheat irrigation costs would be saved by having the winter snows and
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Spring rains germinate this seed. Unfortunately, that winter there was an almost record dearth of snowfall, so there was very little protective coverage of the bare ground. What we did have was plenty of wind! on two or three occasions during the winter, neighbors on the downwind side were very much beleaguered by dust storms, a source of no little irritation. The net result of that was that we lost most of the seed and the fertilizer and it was necessary to replant in the spring, so this whole job had to be done over again. I vividly recall the second planting of this whole area which amounted to about forty or fifty acres. The seed was hardly on the ground before we had one of the biggest windstorms you'd ever want to see. Orchard Drive between Lakewood and Westwood was practically impassable; you just couldn't see. It was worse than the worst kind of a fog.
All of the lawns on the downwind (north and east) side of Central Park were clogged with wind blown peat so that only the tips of grass were showing. Not to mention the aggravation of peat in every crack and cranny of the homes which aroused affected homeowners to storm Village Hall demanding that "something be done." The real culprit in a sense ‑Mother Nature ‑ was not present to take some of the heat.
Inches of topsoil and fertilizer and seed were again lost to the forces of Mother Nature so a third planting was necessary. This time, to be safe, we rented irrigation pipes and were finally successful in establishing turf. The whole experience was traumatic, to say the least. I felt sorry for Al Heitmann who in his diligent way tried to be practical and frugal but got double‑crossed by nature's whims.
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Q. I'd like to thank you for giving this interview.
End of interview.