Big improvements for parks throughout Lake County funded by $4.6 million in grants

Lake Zurich, Mundelein and Lake Villa Township among those receiving matching grants to create or improve parks

A permanent band shell, new splash pad, an all-inclusive playground and fishing station, pickleball courts, a chilled ice-skating rink and a sensory garden are among a variety of improvements planned throughout Lake County.

Lake Villa Township will be creating a new park north and west of Fairfield Road and Grand Avenue to include six pickleball courts and an ice rink. Courtesy of Lake Villa Township

Eight Lake County park districts or village recreation departments and other entities this past week were awarded a total of $4.6 million in Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grants administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The annual program provides matching grants to local government for parks and outdoor recreation projects. This year, $54.9 million in grants were directed to 111 projects throughout Illinois.

In Lake County, the money will be used to upgrade existing facilities and add new ones. Here's a recap:

Lake Zurich: A $600,000 grant will be used for the second phase of improvements at Paulus Park, 200 S. Rand Road (Route 12), the largest and most visited of the village’s 32 parks. The village received $400,000 in 2019 for phase one, which included two new piers, expanded walking trails and shoreline restoration.

Phase two is estimated at about $3.1 million. Plans include renovation and expansion of the splash pad to add slip-resistant surfaces and interactive spray features; gathering space with game tables and bag toss; scenic overlook of Lake Zurich; permanent band shell structure with audio and visual capabilities; and completion of the last segment of shoreline stabilization.

The splash pad, built in 2008, is beyond its useful life and has needed repairs. Input at open houses last summer put the splash pad as one of the most utilized and anticipated amenities.

Construction is anticipated for 2025 as the village meets with various stakeholders.

“We want to be as inclusive as possible when we’re doing the design,” said Bonnie Caputo, recreation director. Next steps would be to contract for design, bidding and construction-related services.

Lake Villa Township: The township last year bought 5 acres north and west of Fairfield and Grand avenues from Lake Villa District 41 with the intention of building a new park.

The new park just north of the township’s Caboose Park will feature six pickleball courts, shuffleboard and 16 community garden spots. A chiller line to be built into the concrete will allow the pickleball courts to serve as a new ice rink in the winter season.

A park support building with restrooms, parking lot and a warming plaza with fire pit are among the planned amenities. The township received a $600,000 grant for the project, budgeted at $1.5 million.

“The ice skating rink will be a tremendous hit,” said township Supervisor Dan Venturi. He said he's hoping the new park will be completed this year.

  Kracklauer Park in Mundelein. Construction of an inclusive playground and associated amenities at the park will get underway this year. Paul Valade/, 2020

Mundelein Park & Recreation District: A matching grant of $600,000 will be applied for the construction of an all-inclusive playground and other accessible amenities including boccia courts (accessible bocce to accommodate people with disabilities), a fishing station and pollinator garden at Kracklauer Park, 116 N. Lake St. (Route 45). Renovating the tennis court to add pickleball lines is part of the work. Total estimated cost is about $1.3 million.

This is a conceptual drawing of an all-inclusive playground planned for Kracklauer Park in Mundelein. The estimated $1.2 million project would cover 6,875 square feet. Courtesy of Mundelein Park & Recreation District

Executive Director Ron Salski said the grant coupled with proceeds from fundraising and other sources will allow the district to produce construction documents earlier than expected.

He said the project would result in an intergenerational space rather than just a playground.

“Now, we've created this all inclusive space for everyone, including people with disabilities,” Salski said.

Other grant-funded projects include:

Lindenhurst Park District: $450,000 for the redevelopment of the Lewis Park, 310 N. Beck Road. Numerous aging elements at the 1.7-acre neighborhood park will be refreshed and new ones added, including a sensory garden and comfort sitting areas. Highlights include playground enhancements, upgrades to basketball and tennis/pickleball courts, landscaping and green spaces. Other elements include pathways, half-court basketball, shelter with solar power, drinking fountain, benches bike repair station, and picnic tables.

Lake Bluff Park District: $600,000 for improvements for the recreation and aquatic center at Blair Park, west of Green Bay Road, north of Route 176. A new game area, pool and bath house corridor renovations and other pool-related work are planned.

Park District of Highland Park: $600,000 to adjust the layout of Lincoln Park, 1280 Green Bay Road, to accommodate a 5-12 playground, increase basketball court space and address critical updates to existing amenities.

Rendering of planned work at Lewis Park in Lindenhurst. Courtesy of Lindenhurst Park District
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