Tiptoeing through the tulips | Bleader

Tiptoeing through the tulips

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The gardens and flower beds in parks around the city look great this time of year. And they should, given what the Chicago Park District is paying for them.

The district has an annual budget of nearly $400 million, and so far this year it's awarded $35.4 million in contracts for office supplies, garbage disposal, and all sorts of other odds and ends, from refrigerators to trophies. But the two biggest contracts, and four of the top ten, went to firms that provide landscaping services and supplies, according to district records.

Moore Landscapes won the top two contracts, for $2.4 million and $1.9 million, to design, plant, and maintain floral arrangements. The flowering of Chicago has been a boon to the Northbrook-based company, which has received Park District contracts worth $15.4 million since 2004. 

The four landscaping contracts awarded by the district this year are worth a total of $6.9 million. Even if not all of the contract payments are made this year, that's a serious investment when held up next to other Park District expenditures. This year the park district budgeted $7.2 million for capital construction, $5.6 million for the Lincoln Park Zoo, and $860,094 for programming at beaches and pools citywide. It awarded less than $2 million in contracts for fitness and sports equipment, the biggest category of awards that go directly to recreation.

Of course, besides their aesthetic appeal, flowers and greenery have other benefits: They've been shown to bolster a sense of community and reduce violence. And the city says they help attract tourists and their money.

Incidentally, the Park District budgeted more than $180 million this year for administration and management.

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