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Parks and Recreation

Established on Dec. 26, 1916, the district has 48 sites and more than 735 acres of land, including the 18-hole Bonnie Brook and 9-hole Greenshire Golf Courses. Facilities operated by the district include the Field House Sports, Fitness and Aquatics Center, the Jack Benny Center for the Arts, the Waukegan SportsPark, the Waukegan Skate Park, the Waukegan BMX Track, recreational centers, an outdoor swimming pool, disc golf course, dog exercise area and agility course, outdoor sports fields, picnic areas, playgrounds, and sports courts including basketball, tennis and pickleball.

A full range of programs and services are offered year-round for all ages, from infants to seniors, as well as special needs populations. Healthy lifestyles, wellness initiatives, and a connection with the outdoors and nature are integrated throughout programs, services and special events.

Cultural events are provided by the Waukegan Symphony Orchestra and Concert Chorus, and the Waukegan History Museum. There is something for everyone!

Health and wellness
Waukegan’s premier fitness facility, the Field House Sports, Fitness and Aquatics Center was opened in 2006. Today it bustles with more than 5,550 members who work out at the 14,000-square-foot fitness center, the one-seventh mile indoor track, the gymnasium with six hardwood sports courts for basketball and volley ball, two batting cages and a three-story climbing wall.
Member and non-member locker rooms, meeting rooms, a Waukegan Public Library branch library, concessions kitchen and child care center complete the Center. The new aquatics center addition opened in December 2016 with a six-lane competition lap pool, a warm water therapy pool and a children’s splash and play area.

Membership is affordable and includes use of the facilities, equipment and classes. Significant partnerships with SilverSneakers and Prime encourage seniors to stay active and healthy.

Promoting physical activity and health is a programing priority. A key to health and wellness is active living or getting at least 30 minutes each day of exercise. A partnership with Lake County Health Department’s Live Well initiative focusing on reducing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity and diabetes has resulted in the free Go Waukegan program. empowering residents to improve their overall health through the simple act of walking.

A Vista Health System partnership delivers free educational programs and health screenings year-round and rehabilitative therapies at the Aquatic Center.

The Waukegan Parks Foundation raises funds to provide every second-grade student in Waukegan a field trip to the Field House for a water safety and swim lesson, climbing lesson, physical activities and a healthy meal. A grant from North Shore Gas provides a free introductory starter SwimSmart class for ages 6 and 7 that focuses on water safety and being comfortable in the water.

Waukegan residents have opportunities to learn pursue their favorite sports and recreational pastimes at the Waukegan Park District. The Waukegan SportsPark opened in 2011, centralizing adult and youth outdoor soccer and softball. The award-winning facility contains 13 natural turf sports fields, one artificial turf championship field and four softball fields that accommodate Waukegan teams while attracting regional and national tournaments. Two golf courses attract Waukegan residents and golfers from neighboring communities. Parks throughout the community provide opportunities to play softball, basketball, tennis and other sports.

Community Events and Programs

Families are the heart of Waukegan, and there is something for everyone at the park district from community-wide events, such as the Jan. 1 Polar Bear Plunge, Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival, American Independence Day Parade and Festival, Halloweenfest and Day of the Dead and the Do It Yourself Messiah and Carols Sing Along in December.

The district reaches out to its community with a variety of free programs in neighborhood and community parks, such as Bowen Blues, Music at Washington Park, Arts Park, Movies in the Park, Parks and Play and the Tanabata Festival.

An annual “free for all’ during the Christmas and New Year’s school holiday provides the community with free days and programs at the Field House in addition to the free, year-round daily walking times, popular with seniors. Throughout the year, the district provides special interest, recreation, health, wellness, nature and cultural programs that are free and benefit residents of all ages.

Conservation and Environmental Stewardship
Conservation and environmental stewardship are the heart of the Waukegan Park District. More than 100 years ago, citizens began to realize that Waukegan’s beautiful and diverse natural areas were being lost and threatened as the city was growing.

After the park district was formed in 1916, the first commissioners acquired lands of great natural beauty to preserve them for future generations to enjoy, Washington and Roosevelt parks. In 1931, Bonnie Brook Golf course was purchased at the urging of the community who to preserve the land from development. Bonnie Brook is rated as one of the best public 19-hole golf courses in the region.

In 1963, Bowen Park was purchased and continues to be one of Waukegan’s prized jewels with its spectacular playground, Grosche Field, Lilac Cottage, Waukegan History Museum, Jack Benny Center for the Arts, Jane Addams Center, Children’s Garden and the Morrison Picnic Center. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. A $1.5 million restoration project is underway in Bowen Park as a partnership with Waukegan Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Group and grants from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

One of the oldest parks, Roosevelt Park, has undergone many changes to make it more environmentally friendly. The lagoon was transformed into a wetland to remove pollution and reduce sediment moving downstream into Lake Michigan. Permeable pavers in the parking lot and the rain garden also reduce pollution. The loop path system and boardwalk promotes walking through the park. The signage in the park won the Illinois Society of Landscape Architects Merit Award.

Most recently, the district has responded to the devastation of ash trees in its parks by the Emerald Ash Borer with a management plan that supported the removal of affected trees and planting of replacements.

Looking to the future
In this Centennial Year, the Waukegan Park District is looking to the future by planning new facilities for Belvidere Park. It is celebrating its first 100 years with a parade and community festival on July 2, 2017, which will include a time capsule burial and planting 100 Centennial trees. For more information about the Waukegan Park District, events and programs, visit www.waukeganparks.org.

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