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updated: 11/11/2011 12:32 PM

Fox Valley parks are investments for (a better) life

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By Jeff Long

Investing doesn't have to be complicated. Most of us have the financial wherewithal to understand that reinvesting can reap even greater dividends when done so wisely -- and with careful planning.

In other words, you take what's good and make it better.

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The Fox Valley Park District operates with a similar approach toward the parks, trails and public facilities it owns and maintains on behalf of residents. Nearly four years after voters approved $44.8 million for the district by a 2-to-1 ratio, the FVPD continues to carry forth the will of its residents by reinvesting those dollars into the communities from where they originate.

The Open Space, Park and Recreation Investment plan has funded dozens of park improvement projects -- some of them new construction, others as renovations. These public amenities for Aurora, North Aurora and Montgomery translate into an improved quality of life and increased housing valuations while bringing jobs and economic benefits by recycling dollars back into our communities.

To residents' satisfaction, it's been another busy season of progress. Here's an update highlighting the latest park improvement projects:

Community parks

• Cool Acres Park: Renovations to the large shelter house and increased parking capacity make this riverside park a premier hosting site for large gatherings such as class reunions and business retreats.

• North Aurora Island shelter and overlook: Plans include a new, expanded picnic shelter to better accommodate large group gatherings and a seating plaza overlook north of the State Street Bridge.

• South River Street Park: After the Park District relocated its maintenance operations, four acres of riverside land were restored. The area is being converted into a trailhead for the Fox River and Gilman trails, which intersect at the property.

• Waubonsie Creek Park: The new park -- expected to be complete next spring -- will provide two ball fields, four soccer fields, all while expanding the Waubonsie Creek greenway corridor and the connecting trail network.

• Waubonsie Lake Park: Among the highlights are new restrooms, a shelter with overlook and fireplace at the lake's edge, an adventure playground and a floating pier for fishing and nonmotorized boats.

Neighborhood parks

• Bluff Street Park: A new playground, ball field backstop and refurbished basketball half-court are among a series of improvements.

• Cherry Hills Park: Renovations were made to the playground, shelter and basketball court.

• Frontenac Park: A new playground with age-specific play areas and the addition of two adult fitness stations are the latest features at this popular park that serves as the northern trailhead for the Waubonsie Creek Trail network.

• Goodwin Park: Renovations of both ball fields will include new dugouts, fencing and other improvements; they'll be ready for play in the spring of 2012.

• Gregory Island Park: The area of the island north of Indian Trail -- nearly four acres -- was converted into a dog park with separate areas for large and small dogs.

• Stonegate Park: Guided by local residents' input, a paved walking path and mulched trails amid natural areas were developed and interspersed with a series of fitness stations.

Blackberry Farm Revitalization Project / Phase I: A series of renovations and new features include a 25,000-square-foot performance shelter for live entertainment, modern restrooms and a boathouse shelter/pavilion on the shore of Lake Gregory.

Stuart Sports Complex Expansion: To keep pace with community growth and the accompanying demand for field space, the District plans to build four new ball fields with lights and 11 new soccer fields beginning next spring.

Regional trails

• Fox River Trail Gap: The gap is even shorter with a new bridge connecting the Fox River Trail with Hurds Island.

• Gilman Trail Bridge: The new bridge crossing at busy Galena Boulevard brings increased safety along the western route of this historic trail.

It all adds up to progress -- progress in which we've all helped achieve. Enjoy!

Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at jlong@fvpd.net

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