Naperville parks planning year to refocus

  • The $24 million Fort Hill Activity Center has been the focus of Naperville Park District's capital spending for the past few years. But with the facility open since August, the district is planning 2017 as a year to survey the community and set a new focus before embarking on any new projects.

      The $24 million Fort Hill Activity Center has been the focus of Naperville Park District's capital spending for the past few years. But with the facility open since August, the district is planning 2017 as a year to survey the community and set a new focus before embarking on any new projects. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer, August 2016

  • The Knoch Knolls Nature Center was among major projects for the Naperville Park District in recent years along with construction of the Fort Hill Activity center, soil cleanup at Sportsman's Park and renovations at the Riverwalk Cafe. In 2017, the district plans to wrap up work to build a new central maintenance facility and improve Frontier Sports Complex fields, but otherwise spend the year planning for the future.

      The Knoch Knolls Nature Center was among major projects for the Naperville Park District in recent years along with construction of the Fort Hill Activity center, soil cleanup at Sportsman's Park and renovations at the Riverwalk Cafe. In 2017, the district plans to wrap up work to build a new central maintenance facility and improve Frontier Sports Complex fields, but otherwise spend the year planning for the future. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer, October 2014

 
 
Updated 11/28/2016 10:11 AM

Naperville Park District is ready to pause and refocus.

After a few fast-paced years of major construction to complete its first staffed nature center and indoor recreation center, the park district expects 2017 to be a time of evaluating community reaction and setting fresh priorities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It was such a tremendous year of so much going on (in 2016) that it's now time to take a breath," Finance Director Sue Stanish said.

The district plans to spend $44.8 million in 2017, down from $59.3 million in 2016, to complete the Fort Hill Activity Center and start building a new central maintenance facility.

The less-ambitious spending plan, however, won't reduce taxes for the average homeowner, Stanish said, because this year's budget took advantage of cash reserves and next year's won't. Owners of a $335,000 house, the average in the district, can expect to pay between $4 and $8 more to the park district, an increase from the $337 they already pay.

All told, the district expects to levy $21.8 million in property taxes to support a budget park commissioners are expected to approve Dec. 13.

Even with less construction, the district still plans to spend $12.7 million on capital projects such as completion of the central maintenance facility, the second phase of playing field and irrigation improvements at Frontier Sports Complex and upgrades to six playgrounds. Here is a look at the district's spending plan for next year.

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Maintenance facility

Construction is under way on a $7.8 million central maintenance facility in Knoch Park with a new parking lot, a meeting room and restrooms available to the public.

Eric Shutes, director of planning, said the district plans to spend $4.9 million on the project next year, and work is on track for the facility to be finished by summer. Upgrading a central location for park maintenance workers to store their machinery and plan their operations will help "make sure we're providing the best equipment and facilities we can to our public," Shutes said.

Frontier fields

Four multipurpose fields on the east side of Frontier Sports Complex in south Naperville are set to be regraded and outfitted with new irrigation systems next year. The work will complete an overhaul that began last year when several other fields were fixed and a new parking lot was added along with an accessible path from parking to the fields and a prefabricated building with restrooms.

Shutes said next year's work will cost about $750,000 to create better fields for sports like soccer, football and lacrosse.

New playgrounds

Updating playgrounds is part of the park district's capital spending every year, and in 2017, work to renovate six of them is expected to cost $1,035,000, Shutes said. On the list to get new equipment are Columbia Estates Park, Country Lakes Park, Huntington Ridge Park, Pembroke Commons, Summerfield Lakes Park and the playground at Ranch View Elementary School in a cost-sharing agreement with Naperville Unit District 203.

Opinion survey

Executive Director Ray McGury said it's time to reassess the direction the community wants the district to take with an interest survey to be conducted beginning next spring. The district has budgeted $40,000 to hire a company to conduct the study.

"This information then flows into updating our strategic plan, which really charts out the next three years for the district," McGury said. "Likewise, we will use the survey information to update our master plan, which serves as a blueprint for our approximately 2,500 acres of land."

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