Local, Park Forest, Recreation

Grand Opening of Somonauk Park and Fall Fest Set for September 30

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- September 30 is the official grand opening date of the Somonauk Nature Adventure Park as well as the return of the Park Forest Fall Fest, officials announced.

Since the May 2021 groundbreaking, construction saw delays from an array of issues including the pandemic, quarry strikes, union protests, and material shortages. The park had a planned opening in July 2022.

Final pieces coming in place

headshot of a man with beard and glasses
Kevin Adams is the Park Forest Director of Recreation, Parks, and Community Health (VOPF)

According to Kevin Adams, Park Forest Director of Recreation, Parks, and Community Health, only a few items are still in the works before the completed redevelopment.

wooden pavilion under construction
The new pavilion is almost complete and will include a kitchen area and restrooms. (Photo John Hudzik)

Within the next two weeks, work on the new pavilion will be complete. Workers need to finish the roof and the internal plumbing and fixtures. When complete, the pavilion will have restrooms and a kitchen area with a stove and refrigerator.

Adams said that as soon as work is done on the pavilion, the adjacent parking lot is s resurfaced.

playground equipment surround by orange plastic fencing
The all-abilities playground will be open to kids once the turf installation is complete. (Photo John Hudzik)

All-Abilities Playground

A new all-abilities playground is also nearing completion with only turf installation remaining. Adams said he expects crews to finish work on this in the next two weeks. Once completed, crews will remove temporary fencing, and the equipment will be ready for the kids.

The basketball court at Somonauk Park is complete and ready to use. Adams said that future park enhancements would likely include a new pathway connecting the court to the rest of the park.

a wooden boat launch adjacent to a pond
The boat launch is complete and ready for use. Kayak rentals should be available over the coming weeks. (Photo John Hudzik)

Work on the pond is essentially complete. The kayak launch is in place and ready. Adams hopes that the kayak rental station will be in place in time for the Grand Opening. When operational, patrons will be able to use an app on their phone to rent a kayak, paddle, vest, and life preserver.

green sign hanging on wooden frame
The sign at Somonauk Park notes that fishing is “catch and release” only. Those fishing must have a license. (Photo John Hudzik)

As soon as the fence around the pond came down in July, people began fishing from the new piers. The village has stocked the pond with catfish, bluegills, and other species. Fishing is “catch and release” only. Those fishing must have a state fishing license.

The final piece of the park renovation will be the installation of large family porch swings. According to Adams, the village has all the equipment but had to wait for the completion of asphalt paths. Adams said parkgoers can expect to see swings installed over the next few weeks.

Cost of the project

As Adams’ predecessor, Rob Gunther, said when announcing the project, the projected cost for the Nature Adventure Park was $800K with half of that amount coming from an Open Space Land Acquisition & Development (OSLAD) grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  Not included in that amount was the cost of the new pavilion (about $200K) and the all-abilities playground (about $215K).

a circular stone platform with a fire pit in the middle
The new park features a Friendship Circle where small groups can gather, (Photo John Hudzik)

The new park has stayed true to the original concept. The only deviation from the plan is the absence of a zip line course in the park. The village was unable to find a manufacturer that could accommodate the sloped geography of the park. Adams said that while there are no current plans for the zip lines, officials might revisit the idea the future.

Grand opening will include a return of Fall Fest

The grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 30 will coincide with the return of the Fall Fest at Somonauk Park. Open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Fest will offer music, food options, games, and giveaways. The flyer for the festival appears at the end of this article.

As in past years, there will also be a chili cook-off organized and run by Flamin’ Hotties of Park Forest.

pond with a fountain in the middle
The pond has a fountain and “bubblers” to keep the water moving. (Photo John Hudzik)

Adams is hopeful that residents will enjoy the Fall Fest and take this opportunity to visit and explore all that the new park has to offer.

“We are excited to finally open the park to our residents. We are thankful to everybody for their patience. A lot of Park Foresters did not know the old Somonauk Park, but we hope once they see the new park, they will be amazed and return.”

Other park news

Adams said that preliminary plans are under discussion for an even larger all-abilities playground for Central Park in coming years. The Village hopes to leverage another OSLAD grant to make it possible. Adams noted this is a long-term effort and not something that will happen this year or next.

Throughout Park Forest, the park water fountains, which were turned off during the pandemic, should now be operational unless there is a water line issue that needs to be addressed.

Adams hopes to schedule a Park Clean-up Day for next May. These events were suspended during the pandemic, but Adams believes they are a great way to get the community involved in removing debris that accumulates during the winter and getting the parks ready for warm-weather activities.