Breaking down the state grant money coming to Lake County parks

The largest round of state Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grants in the 36-year history of the program included nearly $6.7 million for work in multiple Lake County jurisdictions.

Six of the 12 Lake County recipients will get the maximum $600,000 match - half the estimated cost - from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to introduce new features and enhance or refresh others.

"An investment in the outdoors is an investment in the health and well-being of the people of Illinois," IDNR Director Natalie Phelps Finnie said March 1 in announcing the awards.

Projects encompass a variety of activities including fishing piers, pickleball courts, playgrounds and more. Here is a recap of some of the plans:

Lakewood Forest Preserve, Wauconda area, $600,000

Funds will be used for a nature-based play area and new picnic shelter, components of the first phase of a master plan for Lakewood, which at 2,835 acres is the largest in the Lake County Forest Preserve District's system.

The district last year also received $400,000 for other Phase 1 elements such as a three-season shelter and shoreline improvement at Taylor Lake, fishing piers, internal roads and parking lots and a 1.6-mile asphalt looped trail. It will have received $1 million in consecutive Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grants against estimated project costs of $5.45 million.

All of the project elements are out to bid and, pending the results, construction could begin in summer.

Visit for information on the Lakewood master plan. Phase 1 includes everything between Ivanhoe Road and Route 176 except a net-zero maintenance facility, which is a different project.

  Renovated tennis courts are among the planned improvements at Osage Park in Wauconda. Paul Valade/

Wauconda Park District, $473,500

Funds will be used for various improvements in Osage Park, 200 Osage St., north of Route 176 and west of downtown.

Work will include the addition of outdoor fitness equipment, two pickleball courts, a rain garden with interpretive signage and improved rainwater detention and accessibility to all park features.

Tennis and basketball courts will be renovated and one of the basketball courts will be converted to an outdoor futsal court.

Park District Executive Director Tim Staton said community feedback in the grant process included park users from 18 to 60 years old. The grant gives the district a head start on updating its parks and recreation system, he added.

"Our hope is this renovation will have something for everyone and become a meeting place for the neighborhood to play together," he said.

  More than half a mile of new trail, a fishing station, a gaga ball pit and other improvements are planned for Longmeadow Park in Mundelein. Paul Valade/

Mundelein Park & Recreation District, $400,000

Funds will be used for improvements and upgrades at Longmeadow Park, 1800 Somerset Lane, northeast of routes 83 and 176.

Work includes making the path to the shelter ADA-accessible; adding play apparatus for 2- to 12-year-olds, half-court basketball, a gaga pit and a fishing station. The walking path will be renovated and a woodland walking path installed to add more than a half mile of new trail that will connect two sides of the subdivision. Planned work includes renovating the sand play area and removing invasive species.

Longmeadow Park is nearly 49 acres and was developed in the late 1990s. Executive Director Ron Salski said the work will replace an outdated playground, allow kids to fish, meet accessibility needs and create trails.

Longmeadow was chosen because of accessibility issues to the gazebo, the playground is more than 20 years old and needs to be replaced and the current basketball hoop is in the parking lot, he added.

Work will start in fall and completed in summer 2024.

  A new pier, kayak launch, picnic shelter, performance stage and other upgrades are in store for Lakefront Park in Round Lake Beach. Mick Zawislak/

Village of Round Lake Beach, $580,915

Funds will be used to for a new fishing pier and kayak launch, a picnic shelter with concessions, a performance stage, a new playground and other improvements at Lakefront Park, along the northwest shore of Round Lake.

Beginning the process to upgrade the village's beloved park is among the goals for 2023, said Mayor Scott Nickles.

The project is in the planning stage and a start date isn't set although village officials want to have it done by the summer of 2024.

"This (grant) money will go a long way to help cover the cost of the changes the residents said they'd like to see," Nickles said.

Village of Libertyville, $469,000

Funding will be used to develop a new recreational space in an underutilized part of Butler Lake Park north of Lake Street. The area is east of the lake and south of the parking lot connecting to the former band shell area.

Plans include a playground, seat walls, plant tunnels and a pollinator garden, stone and wood bench seating, a shelter, permanent chess and checker tables, a climbing net challenge course, a connected walking path, a baggo area and additional parking. A design and bidding schedule will be developed after an agreement with the state and notice to proceed are received.

The project is not part of the village's Parks Master Plan but was identified to maximize the use of open space and grant opportunities, according to Ashley Engelmann, deputy village administrator. A master plan is needed to apply for the Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grants.

The Butler Lake project will be a continuation of a large investment to revitalize and upgrade village parks. Libertyville has received its only two OSLAD grants in consecutive years.

Last year, $400,000 was received for expansion at Nicolas Dowden Park, which includes multiple pickleball courts. That project is being designed and likely will begin later this year, Engelmann said.

  A splash pad for kids near the playground is among the planned improvements at Grant Township's recreational area in Ingleside. Pickleball courts, a nine-hole disc golf course and other amenities also are in the works. Mick Zawislak/

Grant Township, Ingleside, $600,000

A long-envisioned plan to add a host of facilities to the township's sprawling park on Molidor Road east of Route 12 finally can get off the drawing board.

Facilities on the property adjoining the township office already include fields for baseball, football, soccer and lacrosse and a children's playground.

Plans call for the addition of two pickleball, a tennis and bocce ball court, a kids' splash pad, an outdoor exercise area, a nine-hole disc golf course and a new parking area.

"During the pandemic, it came to light how many of the residents were looking for outside activities, so this was the start of our project to provide more recreation for the community," said Nancy Rogers, the township's administrative assistant.

Grants also were awarded to:

Park District of Highland Park: $600,000.

City of Zion: $600,000.

Antioch Township: $599,822.

Deerfield Park District: $600,000.

Vernon Hills Park District: $566,465.

Buffalo Grove Park District: $600,000.

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