The battle to save Oswego’s Pfund Park from becoming a cemetery continued Tuesday evening as more than two dozen impassioned residents showed up to the Oswego Village Board meeting to have their voices heard.
Village trustees were expected to vote on the passage of a special use permit which would allow Oswego Township to move forward with its plans to turn the park into additional plots for Pearce’s Cemetery. Instead, trustees opened the floor for discussion and tabled their vote for a future date in hopes of eliciting conversation between residents and Oswego Township officials.
“The residents have come in good faith to say what they need to say; unfortunately, we’re not the board that needs to hear it,” President Gail Johnson said. “We would respectfully ask that the township have a conversation with residents.”
For more than a year now, residents near Pfund Park have been fighting against the transfer of 1.4 acres of former Oswegoland Park District property to Oswego Township. The land, located along the Waubonsie Creek and gifted to the park district by the estate of Jack Pfund, has been used for decades by families in the area. Before it came into the park district’s hands, Jack Pfund would invite neighbors to use his personal property to visit the creek, cut through to the high school, or picnic with families. The memories forged at the park are some of the best they’ve created, residents explained to the board.
Residents said Pfund expected those memory-making moments to continue when he left a fourth of his estate to the park district. The will’s executor gifted the 1.4 acres to the park district to keep the park’s mission alive.
But, the land was transferred to Oswego Township, which erected a fence along the property and aims to turn the land into burial plots.
“Why aren’t his wishes being respected and supported?” one resident asked. “Why is it so necessary to snatch up a piece of property that only benefits a few?”
The transfer of land, while legal, has upset many residents who feel it is going against the will of Jack Pfund.
“My question is, just because you can do something, does that make it right?” resident Frank Carney asked trustees. He pleaded that they deny approving a special use permit to allow burial plots on the property.
Township officials maintain that there were no restrictions placed on the 1.4-acre property when the transfer of land went through, and that it is well within their right to expand the cemetery onto the property which is now in the township’s possession.
Carney has proposed donating some of his own land, which backs up to the park, to create a trail that leads through the park and along the creek. He’s asking that 0.4 of the 1.4 acres be given back to the park district to make this work. He said the township rejected his idea.
Johnson said as far as the special use permit is concerned, it is going to be hard for the Oswego Village Board to deny. She encouraged residents to meet again with the township in hopes for a solution.
“The requirements to deny their request are very specific. It would be difficult to deny it. Instead of voting tonight, I encourage you to have a conversation [with the township].”
Although Oswegoland Park District officials weren’t at Tuesday’s meeting, Village Administrator Dan DiSanto said the park district has agreed to accept back and maintain Pfund Park if that’s the desire of the township.
Oswego’s vote will take place at a later meeting.