Naperville begins transformation of last large open space into new park
For years, Naperville Park District owned but didn't use a 33-acre parcel on the far southwest side of town, awaiting the day when nearby development would warrant turning the former farm into a recreation area.
That day has come, park district officials said Wednesday, on a rainy afternoon as they broke ground on Wolf's Crossing Community Park.
The meadow of prairie grasses and wildflowers at 3253 Wolf's Crossing Road is set to become the site of the park district's first challenge course -- an obstacle area -- as well as a splash pad, playground and sled hill. Fields or courts for basketball, tennis, volleyball and pickleball are part of the plan, as is a 1.4-mile walking trail. The park also will include a pavilion, bathrooms and a parking lot.
Jenifer Rinkenberger, who lives in the new Ashwood Pointe subdivision immediately east of the site, said she's looking forward to a larger outdoor play space for her children and the 400 others living in the neighborhood.
"We need more space as our kids get bigger," Rinkenberger said. "It'll provide a bigger place for our kids to play."
Jay Slaughter, chairman of the political and civic commission at the Carillon Club senior subdivision, said his neighbors are looking forward to circling the walking track for exercise while they bring their grandkids to the playground or challenge course to run off steam. The $11 million park received a funding boost from the state's Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grant. State Sen. Linda Holmes of the 42nd District, an Aurora Democrat, said the program to support park districts in creating new recreation sites is something state government does right.
"These are safe areas our families can enjoy," she said.
As officials developed plans for the park's layout, they also sought ideas for what to name it. Ginny Wolf Chivas, whose great-great-grandfather Amos Wolf farmed the land that will become the park along with his four brothers, suggested the moniker Wolf's Crossing Community Park, and it stuck.
She said her relatives arrived at "this neck of the Illinois prairie" In 1844, some of them from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and others from Germany. Together on the Midwestern homesteads they formed, the Wolf brothers and their families combined "work enjoyment" as they farmed their land and savored the fruits, Wolf Chivas said.
Looking at the expanse of prairie that used to take her relatives more than a month to plow, Wolf Chivas said she's glad it soon will have a new public use.
"We are excited to break ground on the net life of this land," Wolf Chivas said.
Rich Janor, park board president, said Wolf's Crossing Community Park should be ready for use by next summer, adding to the 2,400 acres the park district already manages at 137 parks.