Orland rededicates revamped handicap-accessible park
BY MIKE NOLAN email@example.com October 17, 2012 11:38PM
A sign with photos of the late Kevin Hertz stands outside the Orland Park playground named in his memory. After undergoing an extensive renovation, the park was re-dedicated Oct. 6. Mike Nolan
Updated: November 19, 2012 6:01AM
When it was unveiled nearly two decades ago, Kevin Hertz Memorial Playground was one of the Southland’s first handicap-accessible parks — at least as accessible as was possible at the time.
Wood chips used to create a soft surface at the Orland Park playground were “not so mobility friendly” for kids using wheelchairs or walkers, Mary Kay Hertz said.
After an extensive renovation, wood chips have been supplanted by rubberized surfaces, and ramps installed that allow kids, no matter what their level of ability, to fully enjoy the playground.
At a recent rededication of the park, named for her late son, Hertz said that for children “we build environments just for them, all of them,” and that the new park would be enjoyed by children “whether you run or walk slowly or wheel to this equipment.”
Born with spina bifida, Kevin Hertz died in 1990 at age 11 from complications following surgery.
The playground has a baseball theme, with an artificial turf surface in a center that resembles a baseball infield. Oversized concrete “baseballs” appear to be embedded in the turf, and towering over the field is a baseball foul pole.
Trustee Pat Gira, chairman of the village board’s parks and recreation committee, described it as “a ballpark within a ballpark.”
A plaque from the original playground dedication, on Oct. 10, 1992, was relocated from its entrance and now is at the base of the foul pole. The date of the rededication ceremony, Oct. 6, was picked to closely coincide with the 20th anniversary of the play area’s original dedication, Gira said.
Speaking to several neighbors and friends gathered at the rededication, Mary Kay Hertz said “the fact that it bears Kevin’s name is truly a great honor for our family.”
Her husband Richard, son Brian, and daughter Katie took part in the ribbon-cutting, along with Brian’s wife, Cathy, and the couple’s two daughters, Claire and Anna, who are frequent visitors to the playground.
Baseball theme for park
Located in the center of the baseball fields at Centennial Park, 15600 West Ave., Kevin Hertz Memorial Playground was given a sports theme per the village’s plans, according to Ellen Schmidt, with the firm Norris Design, which developed plans for the renovation. Throughout, the lyrics of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” are etched in concrete blocks.
Orland Park trustees in early September approved spending $256,000 for new play structures, and the total renovation cost more than $350,000.
The old playground equipment was donated to Kids Around the World Inc., a Rockford-based charitable organization that supplies refurbished playground equipment to disadvantaged countries.
The cost of buying the foul pole from a playground equipment manufacturer would have been too expensive.
Instead, Blake Harvey, an employee with the village’s parks and recreation department whose hobbies include metalworking, got the materials and worked on fabricating the foul pole in a little more than two days’ time.
“This (playground) is the focal of this park and is used extensively,” Harvey said.
Mary Kay Hertz said it “was kind of a surprise” to learn the village was redoing the play area, and that she would come by from time to time to see the progress.
She said her son was a big baseball fan, and “I think he would be thrilled for all the kids that will be able to play here.”