Breaking News Bar
posted: 7/17/2017 5:30 AM

Vasa Park in South Elgin needs the public's help

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Catherine Dinicolo and husband, Frank, have been caretakers of Vasa Park in South Elgin for 17 years. Their home is one of several structures at the 25-acre park in need of repairs.

      Catherine Dinicolo and husband, Frank, have been caretakers of Vasa Park in South Elgin for 17 years. Their home is one of several structures at the 25-acre park in need of repairs.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • A leaky roof in the pavilion is among repairs needed at Vasa Park in South Elgin.

      A leaky roof in the pavilion is among repairs needed at Vasa Park in South Elgin.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteer Brendan Hoppe, 17, of Bristol, Illinois, picks weeds in the flower garden at Vasa Park in South Elgin.

      Volunteer Brendan Hoppe, 17, of Bristol, Illinois, picks weeds in the flower garden at Vasa Park in South Elgin.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

Vasa Park, a South Elgin mainstay for more than six decades, needs a few repairs, and the foundation that runs it hopes the public will help.

The park, whose mission is to promote Scandinavian culture, is private but open to the public for annual events like Midsommar Festival in June and a September fish boil. It's rented for the annual World of Faeries Festival in August, and for weddings and other events.

Amber Dawn Chesley, chairwoman of the park's growth and development committee, said the pavilion roof needs to be replaced and the caretakers' house needs repairs, which would cost about $15,000 each. A new deck accessible to people with disabilities would cost about $5,000, she said.

So far, a GoFundMe page has raised $575 in about three months, but the group has been fundraising in other ways, Chesley said.

Promoting Scandinavian culture is not an easy proposition these days, she said, but she's confident the money will be raised over time. "The culture seems to be disappearing, even if there's so many Scandinavians out there," she said.

So why should the public contribute money to a private park?

Because people love it when they visit, said Park Board President Tom Cleveland of Sycamore.

"It's right on the Fox River, there are the oak trees, wide open spaces," he said. "The park is open to anybody for rentals, and when people come and see it, they say, 'I'd love to keep this up.'"

Chesley, who lives in Lisle, agreed. "I grew up going to this park. That was my quiet place," she said.

Vasa Park dates to 1953, when it comprised 50 acres and was bought by a group of people who wanted to promote Swedish culture. It was incorporated in 2003 as a nonprofit under Scandinavian Park, Inc., whose board includes representatives of all five Nordic countries.

Catherine Dinicolo and her husband, Frank, have lived at the park 17 years and take care of the 25-acre property in exchange for free rent. Both have other part-time jobs.

There are several buildings to clean and maintain, including a gazebo, a barn that was turned into a kitchen and bar, a hot dog stand, a garage and an office. It's a lot of work, but well worth it, Dinicolo said.

"It's good exercise," said Dinicolo, who is 74, like her husband. "I love outdoor stuff. When I met the riding lawn mower, I fell in love with it."

The couple gets help from volunteers like John Hoppe of Bristol, Illinois, and his son Brendan, who last week worked on the flower garden.

"I helped design the garden six or eight years ago, and I just started volunteering again," said Hoppe, who is of Danish descent. "I wanted to reconnect with friends in the area. We've had some good times here."

Members of Boy Scout Troop 13, based in St. Charles, have camped and volunteered at the park by raking, spreading mulch, building benches and installing a new playground, scoutmaster Mike Nelson said.

"It's not a public park, but when they do have these events open to the public, they are well-attended, so there's a lot of the public that unitize it," Nelson said.

Donations are accepted at gofundme.com/3mn334g.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.