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posted: 7/29/2014 2:48 PM

Looking back on 50 years of the Hoffman Estates Park District

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  • The spring 1969 signing of the Hoffman Estates Park District's purchase of the Vogelei property. At the last minute, owner Ida Vogelei decided she didn't want to sell the driveway, but ultimately gave in.

      The spring 1969 signing of the Hoffman Estates Park District's purchase of the Vogelei property. At the last minute, owner Ida Vogelei decided she didn't want to sell the driveway, but ultimately gave in.
    Courtesy of the Hoffman Estates Park District

  • Vogelei Park in 1970, shortly after the Hoffman Estates Park District's 1969 purchase of the land.

      Vogelei Park in 1970, shortly after the Hoffman Estates Park District's 1969 purchase of the land.
    Courtesy of Hoffman Estates Park District

  • The groundbreaking ceremony for the Prairie Stone Sports & Wellness Center.

      The groundbreaking ceremony for the Prairie Stone Sports & Wellness Center.
    Courtesy of Lois and Andrew McPherson

  • The Hoffman Estates Park District's Highpoint Park in 2013.

      The Hoffman Estates Park District's Highpoint Park in 2013.
    Courtesy of Hoffman Estates Park District

  • Fishing at Highpoint Park in 1972.

      Fishing at Highpoint Park in 1972.
    Courtesy of Hoffman Estates Park District

  • Joe Fabbrini

      Joe Fabbrini

 
 

The Hoffman Estates Park District will mark its 50th anniversary with its Party in the Park on Saturday, Aug. 2, at Highpoint Park, and some of those who remember the entire long journey to this weekend's celebration are sharing stories of how the district came to be.

Among them are the wife and son of Joe Fabbrini -- the visionary leader who did much of the legwork to establish the park district before and after the voter referendum that legally created it in 1964.

Though Joe and his wife Kathy retired to Florida in 1989, he continued until his death in 2011 at the age of 87 to love both Hoffman Estates and the park district he'd help build.

"We miss him quite a bit," said his son, Jim Fabbrini. "He was quite a man and quite a leader. To say he enjoyed the parks was an understatement."

Joe and Kathy moved with their four children from Chicago to Hoffman Estates' new Highlands subdivision in the early '60s. Their house backed up to Highland Pond, originally a peat bog planned to be used strictly for water retention.

Kathy said so many people were moving to the suburbs at that time, excited by the prospect of owning a home in such surroundings. Most didn't realize until they got here the absence of such amenities as parks, which they'd grown accustomed to in the city.

But while Joe probably wasn't alone in missing parks, he set out to do something about it. He started by speaking with friends on the village board about starting a park district using land both donated by developers and purchased.

Joe served on both the village's short-lived park board and the steering committee that took the park district referendum to vote.

He joined Bernard M. Bartosch, Charles R. Meyers, Lyle A. Button and Elizabeth M. Fink on the park district's first board of commissioners, which took office May 22, 1964. Joe also became the district's first de facto director until 1967.

Among his accomplishments during those years was establishing the summer playground program, "Tot Lot," which later evolved into today's summer camp. He also advocated for lighting the parks to maximize residents' use of them.

George Seaver was on the village board during those years, but moved on to the park district board from 1969 to 1975. He found the park district pleasantly less political than the village board.

Much important work was done during this second chapter of the district's history -- particularly in the area of land acquisition.

He was on the park board when the district bought the Vogelei Park property from farm owner Ida Vogelei. Seaver recalls that she changed her mind at the last minute about wanting to sell the farm's driveway, but ultimately was persuaded to complete the sale.

Seaver saw the park district grow from an operation with a $60,000 to $70,000 budget just to cut grass and conduct maintenance to full-service district with dozens of parks, facilities and programs for residents to enjoy.

"I just think park districts are essential," Seaver said.

Making park districts a separate entity from municipalities is key to ensuring their mission doesn't get overly bogged down in politics, he added.

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