Naperville parks striving to stay relevant among 'more competition'

Posted2/9/2013 2:05 PM
  • Naperville Park board President Kirsten Young delivers the third annual state of the park district address Saturday at the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center.

      Naperville Park board President Kirsten Young delivers the third annual state of the park district address Saturday at the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

Among video games, traveling soccer leagues, cultural clubs, TV shows and anything else suburban residents enjoy in their ever-dwindling leisure time, the Naperville Park District is striving to stand out, leaders said Saturday during the third annual state of the park district address.

"We recognize that there is more competition in the area of recreation than every before," Park board President Kirsten Young told a crowd of about 60 gathered at the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center for the address. "Maintaining our relevance as a key provider of recreation, health and wellness services is as crucial now as it ever was."

Saturday morning's speech recapped ways the park district made improvements to maintain its relevance and value in 2012 and previewed upgrades, construction projects and plans on tap for 2013.

In the past year, the park district redesigned its website, received state accreditation, implemented a plan to grow nontax revenue to fund about 50 percent of its operations and began major renovations at Meadow Glens park.

Young said the coming year will be one of progress and goal-setting as the park district looks to update its five-year strategic plan, renew its customer service program and oversee completion of improvements at Meadow Glens, Commissioners Park and Knoch Park North.

"We don't slow down -- we've got plenty on the horizon," Young said.

Last fall, residents began seeing improvements at Meadow Glens including a .6-mile path, a nature playground, prairie restoration, a picnic shelter and restroom building, bag toss equipment and a winter ice skating area.

This spring, the district plans to host a grand opening at the upgraded park, where work was supported by a $400,000 Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grant and a $20,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Building on the success of the multiuse synthetic field for sports including soccer and lacrosse at Nike Sports Complex, the park district plans to install more turf this year.

"In 2013, the district's second synthetic turf field will be installed at Commissioners Park, and we couldn't be more excited about bringing this amenity to Southwest Naperville," Young said.

Renovations to four baseball fields including ADA accessible concrete landings and new fencing are planned for the North side of Knoch Park and the first phase in the development of a staffed nature center at Knoch Knolls will get under way.

After receiving nonprofit status in June, the Naperville Parks Foundation plans to continue supporting park district initiatives such as nature center development and scholarships for residents who otherwise could not afford to participate in programs, the foundation's Secretary Mary Lou Wehrli said.

"We are looking forward to the ideas of the community and the enhancement of the park district's mission through the foundation," she said.

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