Fox Valley Park District will be operating on a smaller budget this year compared to last, but still spending $21.6 million on construction projects and park improvements.
The $52.5 million budget, approved Monday night, will fund a new bridge over Galena Boulevard for the Virgil Gilman Trail on Aurora's southwest side, 15 new athletic fields at Stuart Sports Complex in Montgomery and work at other parks, Executive Director Nancy McCaul said.
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A gap in the Fox River Trail just south of downtown is expected to be paved by fall, and the first phase of revitalization work is set to begin on Blackberry Farm.
That first phase will include an adventure play area with a Tom Sawyer theme, a boat dock, restrooms, an expanded picnic area and construction of an events plaza that will be available for rent, McCaul said.
Waubonsie Lake Park on Aurora's southeast side also will receive $1.2 million in improvements under the new budget, including restrooms, a lakeside shelter and an "adventure playground" for kids between 2 and 5.
"These improvements will appeal to a wide range of park visitors while bringing added beauty and environmental benefits as well," Jeff Palmquist, director of planning, development and grants, said in a news release.
Incorporating fitness into people's everyday lives and giving multiple generations of families more ways to enjoy recreation together also are goals woven into expenditures in the park district's budget, McCaul said.
The new budget authorizes $4.5 million less in spending than last year's $57 million, with much of the decrease coming from a salary freeze and the retirements of five employees, McCaul said.
"It was the right thing to do," McCaul said about the salary freeze. "We have to be part of the solution."
McCaul said freezing salaries and not hiring replacements for five retired employees, including a director of natural resources and an outdoor education manager, prevented the park district from increasing admission and membership fees for Blackberry Farm and aquatic centers.
"I'm all about accountability, maintaining what we have," she said.