St. Charles couple sets out to visit every local park
Kathy and Bill Swedberg have lived in St. Charles for more than 45 years, but until a few months ago, they had never realized how many parks were located within the city.
The St. Charles Park District owns and manages 1,450 acres of open space within the community, and the Swedbergs are out to visit each park and natural area. To date, they've been to 33 locations. While the snow and cold has slowed their progress, they plan to complete their tour this year.
"It has been wonderful to experience other parts of our community," Kathy said.
It all started in November 2018 when the couple adopted a greyhound named Pippi from a local dog rescue agency. They welcomed the new addition to the family and the goal of getting in more daily walks for their own exercise. When the pandemic brought on the first stay-at-home orders last spring, the couple, like many, were stuck at home with minimal outings including their daily walks to the park just a few houses away.
Walking past the same trees and park each day got to be a little mundane. One day the couple opened the latest park district brochure to the back cover and saw it listed 21 parks.
"We made it our mission to see all 21 parks," Bill said. "And along the way, we noticed there were more parks that weren't on our list."
They contacted the park district and received a free interactive map, from the park district's website, that the couple was able to load on to their phone.
What started as a checklist has grown into something more for the couple, now retired from work and able to enjoy walks together with their dog. They soon discovered the unique features of each park, whether it was a trail along the Fox River or the canopy of old oaks.
At a time when news continued to raise concerns for activities, the Swedbergs sought relief in nature and the outdoors.
"The parks are really Covid-safe," Bill said. "There's lots of open space."
Initially, Kathy was wearing a shoe boot as she recovered from an injury, but she didn't let it stop her from getting out and collecting those steps on her Fitbit fitness tracker. She said the well-maintained paths made it easy for her to get out and around.
"I guess we have the pandemic to thank for this," Kathy said. "I don't know if we would have done this if we weren't looking for something to do."
They took the time to notice plaques, memorials and signs of the changing seasons on their walks. And they watch The Good Natured Hour each week featuring the park district's outreach ambassador Pam Otto, to learn more about the parks and nature.
"Now, we really take the time to look and listen," Kathy said.
They are happy to share their story and inspire others to try to visit each of the city's parks too and discover peace and beauty just outside their doors.
When they reach their goal of visiting every park, the couple said they already know what they want to do next. They want to do it all over again.
After all, each park offers a different view with the changing seasons.