Time flies when you're making progress.
To that end, the Fox Valley Park District and its residents will celebrate another year of exciting developments. Providing beautiful parks and recreational opportunities is an evolving mission, one that is always geared to making each quest bigger and better than the last.
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Here's a quick look back at some 2011 highlights:
Blackberry Farm: Opened in 1969, this longtime favorite is undergoing a facelift, and work has begun in earnest. Phase I of the master plan -- which was developed based upon public input -- includes an adventure play area, a boathouse shelter with pedal boats, modern restrooms, concession area and a 2,500-square-foot performance shelter for live entertainment.
Gilman Trail Bridge -- Fox River Trail Gap: These significant projects have helped "bridge the gap." The new Gilman Trail Bridge has greatly increased safety at the busy Galena Boulevard crossing while the Trail Gap bridge connects the Fox River Trail with Hurds Island, shortening the gap through downtown Aurora.
Since 2008, more than 10 miles of multiuse trails have been added to the district's network, bringing the total to 44 miles.
Cool Acres: This riverside park got even better with renovations to the large shelter that can accommodate up to 200 partygoers, making it a premier hosting site for large gatherings such as class reunions and business retreats.
Cole Center: By consolidating its headquarters, the Park District converted four acres of land adjacent to South River Street Park into open park space that will soon become a central trailhead for the Fox River and Gilman trails.
The Cole Center also serves as a model of sustainability -- with more than 125 Earth-friendly features -- and was awarded the 2011 Sustainable Development Award by The Conservation Foundation.
Bug Fest: In just its second year of existence, Bug Fest drew a crowd of 1,500 -- many of them curious children -- at this outdoor-themed, educational event held at Red Oak Nature Center and Lippold Park.
Mid-American Canoe and Kayak Race: The 50th anniversary race in June brought together longtime race veterans and newcomers alike, with 460 boats and more than 700 paddlers enjoying the Fox River. Mark June 3 on the 2012 calendar.
Waubonsie Lake and Waubonsie Creek parks: The extension of the Waubonsie Creek greenway -- 232 acres and counting -- is becoming even more beautiful. Waubonsie Lake is near completion to what's been a major renovation, with a new shelter, overlook, fireplace, floating pier and naturalized overlooks where the creek exits the lake.
Across the way, Waubonsie Creek will soon be buzzing with energy, featuring two ball fields and four soccer fields that will be ready for play next fall. Both parks will link to a trail network that travels all the way up the greenway to Spring Lake Park.
The park district truly is a reflection of its residents. Our communities are vibrant, active and always on the go -- which means 2012 is looking every bit as eventful.
• Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at jlong@fvpd.