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County seeks firm to run toboggan slides

Thursday, February 05, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
by ABDON M. PALLASCH

The Cook County Board would like to open all the toboggan slides around the county -- if someone else is willing to run them.

County Board members approved a "request for proposals" Wednesday to be sent to recreation companies willing to open the mothballed slides that have thrilled Cook County families for generations.

If the companies want to install machines to make artificial snow so the toboggans can be opened all winter long; if they want to build warming centers to serve hot chocolate; if they want to rent sleds for younger kids to use on nearby hills -- County Board members say they are open to all of those proposals.

A financial crisis at the Cook County Forest Preserves two years ago prompted the county to close three of the five toboggan slides. An audit estimated that salaries of county staffers to man the slides and other expenses cost the county $52 for every ride.

Commissioner Mike Quigley suggested the district should just give kids $50 each and send them to Woodfield mall to spend it.

The county opened the Jensen Slides at Milwaukee and Devon on Chicago's Far Northwest Side last weekend, and about 500 people came to use them. The county also has plans to open as early as this weekend the slides at Swallow Cliff in Palos Park.

Some residents who called last weekend and got a recording saying Swallow Cliff was open were disappointed to arrive and find the slides were not. County officials said the bad message was switched after a few hours. The slides at Swallow Cliff did not have sufficient snow base to open. But county officials said they hope the slides will be ready for this weekend.

The district charges $1 to use the slide and $3 an hour to rent a toboggan.

Private companies can propose their own rates, but commissioners will have to approve them.



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