Even as a Fox Valley Park District employee, it's OK to admit I have a favorite park -- well, parks -- that I especially enjoy.
With its outstanding network of trails, sparkling lake, convenient location and eco-healthy greenway connecting it all, Waubonsie Lake Park ranks as a crown jewel.
Ever since its creation in the mid-1980s -- as housing developments engulfed surrounding areas -- Waubonsie Lake has been an oasis of recreation for fishing, bicycling, cross country skiing and simply enjoying a quick escape to bond with nature.
Thousands of others share my sentiment -- Waubonsie Lake is one of the district's most popular parks -- and it's about to get even better.
There's been a lot of activity in the area lately, as Waubonsie Lake Park is undergoing a series of improvements that will further expand this park's appeal -- basically, taking what's already good and making it greater.
Central to those improvements is a new four-season shelter at the lake's edge with an accessible overlook and fireplace -- a visually stunning upgrade. New, separate restrooms are part of the overhaul as well.
Highlighting the popular spillway where Waubonsie Creek exits the lake at the southwest portion of the park is an accessible, naturalized overlook on each side of the spillway that will be reconstructed, with an "adventure playground" built adjacent that will target 2- to 5-year-olds.
"These improvements will appeal to a wide range of park visitors while bringing added beauty and environmental benefits as well," said Jeff Palmquist, the park district's director of planning, development and grants.
And there's more exciting news, especially for environmentally-friendly paddlers and fishermen like me. A floating pier providing lake access for fishing and nonmotorized boats will be added near a new, environmentally-friendly parking area -- just north of the current lot -- that will feature permeable pavement, a bioswale and rain garden.
Collectively, these features limit runoff and filter stormwater to prevent contaminants draining into Waubonsie Lake.
The entire Waubonsie Creek corridor enjoys the same protection. From its origins at Spring Lake Park to the northeast, the Waubonsie Creek greenway encompasses 232 acres -- an "emerald strand" of preservation -- that connects a series of parks where wildlife thrives and residents can enjoy year-round.
Though the park sits in the shadow of Westfield Mall, you'd never know -- these parks are a wonderful escape from the daily craziness -- even if it's only a temporary respite.
Adding to this beautiful campus of greenery is the new construction of adjoining Waubonsie Creek Park, a 19.8-acre development just south of Kautz and Montgomery roads that will provide additional athletic fields and a regional trail extension while expanding the Waubonsie Creek greenway corridor.
Both projects were developed with public feedback through open house forums and have received a $400,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. They're each part of the 2008 Open Space, Park and Recreation Investment (OSPRI) plan, resulting from passage of a $44.8 million capital bond referendum. That reinvestment in local parks on behalf of residents is still paying handsome dividends.
Expect much of the work in both parks to be completed by the end of the year, with site restoration extending through next spring.
Life is good these days -- NFL football is back, and my favorite park will soon be looking even better.
• Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.