Hundreds of people tried their hand or practiced their skills at archery Saturday at the grand opening of the renovated range at Blackwell Forest Preserve near Warrenville, but Suzy Black of wasn't one of them.
Still, Black, of Wheaton, said she was excited to see the facility open because it gives her 11-year-old son, Ray, a convenient place to enjoy a sport he's been practicing for a year.
"This is great because it's so close," she said. "We've been waiting for it to open."
Ray aimed and fired arrows from his own bow Saturday on an advanced range with 11 lanes, one of three spaces at the $504,000 archery range, funded in part by a $252,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development program.
Between shots, Ray got advice from Wayne Hockett of Wauconda who said archers are always willing to share tips about the proper form or gear.
"That's the fun thing about archery," Hockett said. "You get a bunch of guys out here and we're all willing to help each other out. It's a very social sport."
While the advanced range was reserved for experienced archers who brought their own bows, arrows, quivers and other gear, the eight-lane beginner area hosted those new to the sport, including siblings Costa and Evelyn Stasinopoulos of Naperville. Novice archers got help from forest preserve staff and volunteers as they aimed at balloons attached to targets about 10 feet away.
Evelyn, 11, said her first attempt at archery was fun and not as difficult as it looked because the gear was set up for beginners. Costa, who said he had tried archery a couple times at Naperville Central High School, hit the balloon on both of his shots.
As archers fired away on the recently renovated range, other forest preserve visitors fished from the shores of Sand Pond or from a wheelchair-accessible fishing pier installed as part of upgrades to the recreation complex on Blackwell's south side near Butterfield Road. The upgrades also included a picnic area with a shelter for 50 people and a new trailhead for Blackwell's existing 9-mile path system.
Visitors Saturday also could file through the new $1.7 million Urban Stream Research Center to see how the facility filters water, monitors and raises mussels and turtles and houses research laboratories.
The research center, funded by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is the only facility of its kind in the state.