City learns it has not owned park for 30 years

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HIGHLAND, Ill. – For Gayle Frey, Highland, Illinois is his hometown, and also the site of his former city park.

“Well, when property surveyed, this ended up being the northwest corner of the former Wick property, which goes through the park,” said Frey, owner of Frey Properties of Highland LLC.

Frey does real estate development and management for a living. When he purchased the former Wicks Organ Factory at 1100 Fifth Street, he learned he was an owner of part of Pine Street and three adjacent parcels, which included Hoffman Park.

“So he purchased it and during the transaction and going through all the titles and everything, it was deemed that he still owned not only a part of this park, but a part of the streets over here that connected to the park,” said Highland City Manager Mark Latham.

Frey learned he technically was the owner of two park benches and a playground roundabout, but not the swing sets, the slide, or the seesaw he could see from his portion of the park.

“He could have just basically said, ‘Get the park out of here. I don’t want this park on my property,’” Latham said.

And rather than hold his hometown hostage over a 30-year-old clerical error or asking for more money, he simply deeded his streets and portion of the park back to Highland.

“I have a good relationship with the city and I love the City of Highland and lived here my whole life and I don’t intend to profit from a mistake,” Frey said.