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Long Chain of Events Leads to Pending Memorial Field Vote

Patch looks at time line of controversy surrounding pending changes to Memorial Field and its impact on residents.

A proposed series of improvements to Memorial Field on Crescent Boulevard across from the Glenbard West High School campus has sparked controversy among several citizen groups in Glen Ellyn. These organizations stress concern that the high volume of traffic on Crescent Boulevard, combined with expanded use of Memorial Field will increase the hazards for students and children in the area.

Memorial Field is used for by the school for physical education classes and other athletic functions. Glenbard Township High School District 87 is in the process of upgrading Memorial Field, with increased seating and proposed lighting which would allow night use of the field. Use of the field would not be limited to school associated events.

The district would also rent the field for other uses, which area residents fear will increase traffic in the area as well. During a District 87 board meeting earlier this month over light pollution from the proposed stadium lighting, which could cost $300,000. An online petition opposing the lights at the field launched Feb. 1.

The school board is looking for approval to submit a variance application regarding installation of the lights to the Village at its Feb. 22 meeting. If approved, the variance application would likely be reviewed by the Village Plan Commission in March.

As the process continues to move forward, residents are rallying around traffic data to point out how increased use of Memorial Field will impact the residential areas surrounding the school.

The organizations, particularly Our Field, Our Town and Citizens for Preservation, cite data from a 2010 village study detailing a high number of automobile accidents on that stretch of road. The $44,000 study, conducted by Burns & McDonnell Engineering Co. of Downers Grove, noted that from 2004-2008 there were 53 crashes on Crescent Boulevard between Park Boulevard and Riford Road involving side swipes, pedestrians, pedal cyclists, rear ends, turning and hitting fixed objects. Village records show there were six crashes in 2009 and about twice that number in 2010 in the same area.

Deputy Chief Bill Holmer said the Glen Ellyn Police Department has taken measures to improve safety conditions near the high school including lowering the speed limit to 20 miles per hour and preventing u-turns.

“Pick-ups and drop-offs were creating some conflicts in the area so we created regulations there to prevent them in front of the high school,” Holmer said. 

Even with the lower speed limit, Holmer said he does not have many reports of speeding along that stretch of Crescent.

“Oftentimes there’s so much traffic in that area that you can’t get above the posted speed,” he said.

Looking at the crash data in the Burns & McDonnell report, Holmer said he could not say whether or not the factors of the crashes were related to traffic associated with the school.

“Without going back to look at the crash data I cannot say what the causes were,” Holmer said.

The first engineering study was commissioned by the school district in 2009. The $13,245 study, undertaken by Eriksson Engineering Associates, sought to identify measures to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety along Crescent Boulevard. According to a March 2009 proposal letter from Glen Eriksson, president of the engineering firm, the study utilized existing public records to examine the school district’s wants.

In May 2009 the Eriksson study identified three levels of improvements for Crescent Boulevard. The first level included:

  • Turning Ellyn Avenue into a one-way street southbound from Ellyn Court
  • Eliminate the drive from behind the gymnasium to Ellyn Court
  • Make Crescent Court into a one-way eastbound road
  • Install sidewalks as necessary
  • Install flashing warning devices
  • Create a new pick-up and drop-off location in the faculty parking lot

The second level included:

  • Install a 48-inch concrete barrier median
  • Stripe crosswalks and add sidewalks
  • Create turn lanes
  • Create parallel parking

The third level included:

  • New parking lots
  • A pedestrian bridge over Ellyn Avenue
  • Turn Ellyn Road into a two-way lane with bigger drop off areas
  • Eliminate access to Park Boulevard and Crescent Court from Crescent Boulevard
  • Making school fields contiguous with the school

The scenarios were presented to the school board in October 2009. The suggestions were accepted by board members, who in turn took the suggestions to the village trustees. After being presented the Eriksson study in January, the village board hired Burns & McDonnell to conduct their own safety and traffic study. After that study was conducted, the village implemented some additional safety measures including a new crossing point at the intersection of Ellyn Avenue and Crescent; crossing supervision by physical education staff; enforcement of the speed limit and possible installment of a raised crosswalk and flashing yellow lights.

Those groups opposed to some of the measures in the improvement plan for Memorial Field have some time to marshal their opposition while the Village of Glen Ellyn seeks grant funding from the DuPage County Mayors and Managers. In December the Village was denied the funding, which would have provided about 30 percent of the cost of the road projects. The village board was seeking federal assistance for the remaining 70 percent of the funding. The village can reapply for the local grant this year.

Maria Chiarello February 22, 2011 at 12:21 AM
Frankly, this town is a town that opposes all change, regardless of its value or wisdom. There are rampant examples of residents attempting to convince their neighbors that the world would end if we cut down trees, reconfigure schools to get kids out of portable classrooms, allow third parties to run for office that were not "invited" by the Civic "Betterment" Party, turf a field that was inherently unsafe and virtually useless, alter recreational space to better meet current needs, replacing Honors classes with AP curriculums, standardizing curriculums across District 87. The list is endless and now its lights. Improvement and progress comes with change and its insane to think that several hours a week of lighting has created yet another firestorm of protest. The world did not end for the 100s of towns that have allowed a high school to light its athletic fields - and many of them are in communities, close to residences, just like ours.
Matthew Hendrickson February 22, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Hey Marie, thanks for the comment. It's great to hear from someone that does not oppose the lights on Memorial Field. So far the discussion on this site has been pretty one sided. Anyone else care to share their thoughts?
Julie Farrell February 22, 2011 at 05:31 PM
Maria, I'm inclined to agree with you on the general non-acceptance of change around here. That being said, however, I completely understand some of the arguments about the lights. Think about it: if you had a toddler whose bedroom window faced the field (and whose bedtime was 7 or 8 pm), would you be ok with stadium lights brightening your street until 10pm? I know I wouldn't. Using your logic, the world also wouldn't have ended if our kids played on a grassy (yes, sometimes muddy) field instead of expensive (and relatively unnecessary) turf....the same way most of us did. The world also wouldn't have ended if the Ackerman Sports Complex wasn't constructed (WELL over the presented budget, I might add). Point being, you have to look at both sides of the argument sometimes before forming an opinion.
Anne February 22, 2011 at 05:53 PM
I think the people of this town are starting to pay more attention to the way in which school boards, park districts and town leadership spend our money and make decisions. Along with a huge majority of the town I voted against the referendum to build a "super school" because I felt it was an extravagent and poorly planned decision. Cut a beloved history class to add an AP class? I wish we could have kept both, but, frankly, knowing that colleges look at "academic rigor" as much as ACT scores, I supported that decision. I don't consider myself against change, just against wasteful change, and most especially against change inspired by a desire to keep up the with the Jones (or the Hinsdales), which, I believe, had a lot to do with the construction of the Ackerman Sports facility and the artificial turf at Memorial Field. I could probably be convinced that the whole Memorial Field thing was OK if the lights had a 9pm shut off time and every dollar ever spent on the project was matched by a dollar spent on classroom equipment at West.

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