By David A. F. Sweet Ever been excited to arrive at Forest Park Beach on a gorgeous summer day – and find there was nowhere to park? Ever wondered how to quickly get the City of Lake Forest’s attention after a thunderstorm knocks down a tree on your street – and it’s blocking the road? The Lake Forest Now App provides opportunities to make your life easier. Click on it to see if there are spaces available to park your car at the beach. Use it to send a photo to the Forestry Department of a downed tree.
Baseball games at Everett Park can be watched on the Lake Forest Now app. “No other North Shore town has anything to this extent,” says Jim Shaw, Director of Innovation and Technology for the City of Lake Forest. Launched in February 2021, the app offers information from outside sources – such as Bike Lake County, which shows new trails that have been added to the network – as well as links to the City website. People can select to receive push notifications for various areas of interest, which range from city construction projects to the Lake Forest Sailing program. Only 10 months after it debuted, the app received the Municipal Innovation Award from the Lake County Municipal League. “After we won, we got about 60-70 downloads,” Shaw said. “We got asked by other communities about how to do it.” This summer, an automated sports camera pilot program is running at the Everett Park baseball field. One camera shows the pitcher delivering a pitch from behind. If the batter makes contact, the view switches to behind the catcher. You can see the games at WatchLFBaseball.com. “If parents and grandparents can’t make the game, they can watch the game live or the recording later,” said Shaw Shaw and Joe Gabanski, Assistant Director of the IT Department, spent a few months in the fall of 2020 talking with various departments to see what they’d like on an app. They wanted to include features that would be relevant to residents. One of the key features installed is called Report a Problem, where a user can send in a photo of everything from a pothole to a car crash. “Last summer there was a horrific windstorm, and we about 160 requests were reported,” Shaw said. “Workers have the app in the field, so they can immediately respond. The City got positive feedback on how easy it was to report issues that day.” So far, more than 3,500 people have downloaded the Lake Forest Now App, and about half of those use it regularly. Future ideas involve animal cams at the Wildlife Discovery Center, traffic cams at busy intersections, online food ordering at Deerpath Golf Course and information about the water temperature at Lake Michigan. Sometimes even Shaw can be surprised by what he sees on the app. On a cold Saturday in the spring, he took a look at the beach parking map. It was bustling. “I thought, ‘Why is everyone down at the beach?’” he recalled. “Then I realized it was a beach cleanup day.” Download the Lake Forest Now App at cityoflakeforest.com/LFNow .