That's what the Naperville Park District is striving for, officials told the public during the district's first State of the Parks address Saturday morning.
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"It relates to meeting the needs of the city and fulfilling the mission," said Ray McGury, the park district's executive director. "It's starting to focus in and see 'Who are we?'"
The district sees improvement coming in the form of renovations to three parks, expected to be complete this year, said park board President Mike Reilly. The district also is seeking national accreditation and hiring a part-time volunteer coordinator.
The Nike Sports Complex, Seager Park and Centennial Beach all are under construction. The beach will gain a new entry plaza and drop-off area, upgraded lockers, a family changing area and a rebuilt concessions stand. The beach's historic bathhouse also is undergoing renovations, but the park district is taking care to preserve its character, Reilly told the audience of about 50 people.
"We look forward to hosting a grand reopening event at Centennial Beach around Memorial Day," he said.
A 20-acre addition to the Nike Sports Complex, with a lighted turf field and a new cricket pitch, is expected to open mid- to late summer, with Seager Park improvements scheduled to be finished by fall, Reilly said.
As those projects progress, employees will be seeking accreditation from the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies, McGury said.
The process will force staff to look at operating procedures and learn how they can be more efficient. McGury said earning recognition will place the park district on the same level as the city's police and fire departments, which are accredited organizations.
With almost 140 parks and about 2,500 acres of land, the park district relies on volunteers -- 3,800 of them in 2010 -- to serve as everything from soccer coaches to weed trimmers who keep the park district's walking and biking trails clear, Reilly said.
The district is searching for a part-time volunteer coordinator to manage all this community assistance. With such a spirit of volunteerism in Naperville, McGury said the position will be worthwhile, and he added the district is saving money by filling the position after the first of the year.
Naperville Mayor George Pradel said the city can depend on the park district to improve the community by maintaining open spaces and recreational areas.
"It really means a lot for us because our economic development is based on everything that goes on in the city and the park district is our big partner," Pradel said. "As the first State of the Park District, I'd give them an A+."