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updated: 9/14/2011 12:43 PM

Trails, picnic areas, accessible features on tap at Vaughan in Aurora

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The ponds designed to hold stormwater north of the Vaughan Athletic Center in Aurora aren't going away.

But the Fox Valley Park District will work around them, with a plan to improve the 19-acre area and make it more inviting to nearby residents and athletic center users.

Park trustees approved on Monday a master plan envisioning outdoor recreation and relaxation areas for people of all ages and ability levels to be added to the stormwater management site north of the district's premier fitness facility.

Many improvements -- such as a shelter and fishing station, a sensory garden and tree house play structure -- are designed to be usable by people with disabilities, said Carolyn Nagle, executive director of the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association, which is headquartered in the Vaughan Athletic Center at 2121 W. Indian Trail.

"We are just so excited to have the park district working together with us to design the features that are going to be accessible," Nagle said.

A looped trail around the edges of the park will connect it with nearby Foxcroft Park and a neighborhood to the north. The path will help Fox Valley Special Recreation participants make their way from gatherings inside the athletic center to outdoor events held at Foxcroft Park without having to take a trip by car or van, Nagle said.

And the best thing about the accessible features is their "accessibility" does not preclude people who don't have disabilities from enjoying them, she said.

Park district Trustee Rachel Ossyra said she is looking for the development of athletic fields, age-specific playgrounds, picnic areas and open play space to take the land from simple water storage to a multiuse park.

"I'm excited that the park district is looking at plans to develop an outdoor space around the Vaughan Athletic Center that will accommodate activities for all age groups," Ossyra said.

And while the plan won't change or eliminate the stormwater management ponds, it will incorporate them into a pleasing design.

"The water retention areas should be very well integrated with the terrain and the existing nearby park facility," Ossyra said.

The park district plans to seek bids for the project later this year so construction can begin next spring.

"It'll make Vaughan an even more spectacular asset for everyone in the district," Ossyra said. "It will be a great combination of indoor and outdoor space for really all of our citizens."