Community, Life and Living, Local, Park Forest, Recreation

Parks, Recreation & Community Health Department Gears Up for Warm Weather

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- With the arrival of Spring, the Park Forest Parks, Recreation & Community Health Department is gearing up for warm weather activities.

To learn the latest information on the plans, eNews Park Forest met with Department Director Kevin Adams.

drawing of people cleaning up a park
Residents can help with park improvement projects on May 11. (Image VOPF)

Parks Day of Service

On May 11, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the village hosts a “Parks Day of Service.” Adams said the department has several projects planned, including landscaping at multiple locations and native plantings near the windmill in Somonauk Park. Everyone is welcome to participate. Mr. Adams encourages school and community groups to sign up and propose projects or ideas of their own.

This is the first service day since the pandemic began in 2020. Following the event, Adams invites all participants to a thank-you lunch in Central Park.

Those interested in volunteering individually or for a group should contact Kevin Rogge at (708) 674-3045.

Additions to Central Park

Visitors to Central Park will soon notice a couple of new attractions in the playground. A “Topsy-Turvey Spinner” and a “Rushwinder” slide will be part of the village’s annual park refresh activities. Adams noted that staff reviews all new facilities for their inclusivity so that children with varying physical abilities can enjoy them.

The Village will also use funds to replace some ballfield backstops.

According to Adams, plans to resurface the Central Park tennis courts are on hold while his department considers installing pickleball courts at the location. The village’s fiscal year begins on July 1, and Adams hopes to leverage some of the available funds to make the new courts a reality by late summer.

Also, in the long-term planning stages for Central Park, patrons will enjoy a state-of-the-art playground for all abilities to meet the community’s inclusivity needs. Adams hopes to secure sufficient matching funds to apply for an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant within the next year or two and have the playground in place by 2026.

Somonauk Park Enhancements

With the completion of the renovations at Somonauk Park last year, Adams is looking at ways to make it even more attractive to the community.

orange light on a post in the grass
Geese deterrent lights installed in Somonauk Park reduce the goose population and associated droppings. (Image VOPF Facebook)

The village installed a “geese deterrent light” in the grass near the pond to reduce the goose population and the associated goose droppings. The 360-degree yellow light pulses every few seconds at ground level, disrupting the ability of geese to sleep and making the environment less attractive. Adams said there has been a noticeable decline in geese since installing the light a few weeks ago. The village plans to install a second light near the dock to address an area shielded from the first light.

A second oversized porch swing similar to the one built last fall on the top of the hill is also in the works. The exact location is still under review.

The all-abilities playground arrived last year. Due to a manufacturing defect, workers temporarily removed the swinging raft attraction. It should be back in place before the warm weather returns.

The village is also reviewing bids from contractors to expand walking paths in the park significantly.

With the park completed, Adams said the department is turning its attention to programs to attract more people to the park. Possible options include fishing derbies, fishing lessons, and kayak lessons.

wooden bench in the dirt in front of a pond
The village will create and install memorial benches in parks for a fee. (Photo John Hudzik) Note: the author’s family ordered the bench pictured.

Memorial Benches

Visitors to Somonauk Park may have noticed the addition of two memorial benches. Village personnel create these benches during the winter season using wood from trees that were removed from the parks.

The benches’ inscriptions commemorate Park Forest individuals or groups. Residents wishing to have a bench made and installed can contact the Parks and Recreation Department. The cost of a bench is currently $750. This allows the village to maintain it in good condition. Purchasers can select the park and location of the bench.

Potential Addition to Winnebago Park

Adams mentioned that subject to village board approval, there are plans to install a disc golf course in Winnebago Park. A similar course currently exists in Sergeant Means Park off Western Avenue in Olympia Fields. If approved, it will be installed in late summer or fall.

Changes to the Aqua Center Calendar

The Aqua Center calendar has been modified for 2024. Because of sparse early season attendance and unpredictable weather, the Aqua Center will open on June 8. The end of the season is August 18. The earlier-than-usual closing results from the staffing issues the pool experiences when high school and college terms begin.

Pre-sale passes for the Aqua Center begin on April 1.

Farmers Market

The Park Forest Main Street Market returns for another season on Saturday, May 4. Hours will be from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Each Saturday through October 26, the Market features 36 spaces filled with various produce, baked goods, and herbs. Local businesses selling artwork, garden ornaments, and jewelry can also be found at the market.

poster with pictures of kids doing camp activities
Kids from 6 to 13 can participate in the village’s “Campapalooza” this summer. (Image VOPF)

Summertime Youth Camp Available

Park Forest offers many youth activities during Campapalooza Kids Summer Camp for kids ages 6 to 13. Camp begins on June 10 and runs through August 2. Activities include field trips, swimming, sports & fitness, STEM, and performing arts. Camp sessions are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The program costs $950, with a $300 deposit due at registration. The balance is due by June 24.

Additional information on Campapalooza and other youth activities can be found on the village website or by calling (708) 748-2005.

Summer Parks Brochure

Adams said that the development of the summer Parks, Recreation & Community Health brochure is in its final stages and should be available within the next few weeks. As with the winter and spring brochure, it will not be mailed to all residents but will be available digitally through the website.

A limited number of printed copies of the brochure will be available for pick-up at the Village Hall.