All-inclusive playground planned for St. Charles' Pottawatomie Park
The St. Charles Park District has received state funding to assist with the creation of an all-inclusive playground and other improvements at its most popular park.
The existing playground at Pottawatomie Park is more than 20 years old and needs to be replaced, prompting park district officials to start considering renovation options, said Laura Rudow, superintendent of parks and planning. They developed a plan that calls for tearing down the aging equipment and installing a fully accessible therapeutic play area for kids of all ages and abilities.
Ideally, Rudow said, the space would be shared among members of the public, Fox Valley Special Recreation Association participants, and those involved in park district preschool or camp programs. The park district recently was awarded a $248,600 matching grant through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to help bring the project to fruition.
"I don't want to imply it's a playground only for kids and participants with special needs. It's an inclusive playground," she said. "In the spirit of inclusivity, everyone can play together."
The play area would include upgraded equipment, ramps, ground-level amenities and poured-in-place rubber surfaces, Rudow said. A sensory garden with various plants, textures, lights and calming spaces also would be created for kids with sensory sensitivity.
Additionally, the plan includes building a new pavilion nearby that could be rented for special occasions or used for shelter. The park's two existing pavilions, which accommodate 100 and 200 guests respectively, are routinely booked on the weekends for weddings, parties and other events, Rudow said, "so we thought, why don't we add a third attractive shelter to this project?"
The improvements would extend into a former Safety Town, which hasn't functioned as such in more than a decade, Rudow said.
"It's a piece of valuable real estate sitting in our most valuable park," she said. "So we'll incorporate that into this overall project."
Upgrades also would include replacing the lights on a nearby tennis courts with LED lighting.
Though a general concept plan has been developed, park district officials are working to put together a more detailed project design, Rudow said. Because of rentals and program scheduling, she said, the improvements likely wouldn't be implemented until fall 2020.
"Taking this large of a piece of property out of the mix (any earlier) would be too intrusive to residents and users," she said.
Roughly 100,000 people visit Pottawatomie Park each year, Rudow said. In addition to attracting a wider audience, she said, the renovation will offer more opportunities for groups such as the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association, which partners with area park districts to offer recreational programs for individuals with special needs.
"To be able to bring this amenity to our park dramatically improves this program," she said. "We're excited about that."