Explore the Fox Valley and Batavia Park Districts
● By Katelyn Nelson
Americans love space. From our national parks to our quarter acre yard, we cherish the open land around us. In suburban America, parks and recreation are as important to a community as just about anything else.
Wikipedia sums it up pretty well: “Recreation is an activity of leisure, leisure being discretionary time. The need to do something for recreation is an essential element of human biology and psychology. Recreational activities are often done for enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure and are considered to be ‘fun.’ ” Every family household, community organization and even businesses, try to incorporate “fun,” or recreation, somewhere into their routine.
Parks and recreation are so important that there are two organizations providing recreational services to North Aurora: the Batavia Park District and the Fox Valley Park District. They protect and preserve thousands of acres and riverfront property for the benefit of North Aurora’s residents. In addition to the recreational benefits, this land contributes to improved water quality, protects groundwater, helps prevent flooding, improves the quality of the air we breathe, and provides a habitat for wildlife. Most residents agree that a quality park system is very important to their quality of life.
Resident Jay Barnes has lived in North Aurora for 12 years (Pine Creek subdivision). “I enjoy taking my kids out on the trails, going fishing, doing anything outdoors; discovering the hidden treasures.” Jay proudly showed his photographs of the Morel mushrooms (a delicacy and most sought after wild mushroom in North America) he found along the Illinois Prairie Path May 6.
Study after study show that access to parks and recreational opportunities is linked to reductions in crime and to reduced juvenile delinquency. Parks improve the local tax base and increase property values. Parks and recreation districts generate money for the local economy. The park districts are critical because they enrich the lives of those within them while improving health and wellness; building self-esteem; boosting the economy; protecting the environment; educating children and adults; reducing stress; creating memories; increasing community pride; eliminating loneliness.
At the Batavia Park District, your fun really is their business. The district, created in 1969, provides memorable experiences in parks and recreation services for about a third of North Aurora’s residents. The district operates more than 350 acres and a variety of unique facilities including the Batavia Depot Museum and Hall Quarry Beach. More than 1,000 recreational programs are offered annually in areas such as dance, fitness, and athletics. In-house programs include New Horizons Preschool, an enrichment program for kindergarten-age children, and the Kids Club before-and-after-school program. Forty park sites provide families, friends and neighbors a variety of places to play.
Two-thirds of North Aurora residents enjoy the benefits of the Fox Valley Park District. In 2005, the 225,000-square-foot Vaughan Athletic Center at 2121 W. Indian Trail opened bringing the FVPD center of activity closer to North Aurora. In 2009, the Fox Valley Park District was awarded the country’s most prestigious honor in the parks and recreation profession: the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management presented by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).
Fox Valley Park District is the largest park district in Illinois outside of Chicago, serving a population of more than 233,000 people. The district owns and maintains 2,500 acres of open space, 22 miles of river shoreline, 164 parks, 58 bas00eball fields, 84 soccer fields and 44 miles of trails. Other park amenities include 93 playgrounds, 26 basketball courts and 27 outdoor tennis courts. There is a combined 500,000 square feet of indoor recreation space at the district’s three main facilities (Eola and Prisco community centers and the Vaughan Athletic Center).
Those with special needs are not left out. The Fox Valley Special Recreation Association (FVSRA) was formed in 1976 and is an extension of the Batavia and six other park districts. FVSRA provides year-round therapeutic recreation services including general programs, Special Olympics sports, leisure education, day camp, special events, travel opportunities, individualized programming, and social programs. The FVSRA office is located in Aurora at 2121 W. Indian Trail in the Fox Valley Park District Vaughn Athletic Center. Registrations are accepted at this location. Any individual with a disability may register for FVSRA programs. Residents of the seven member agencies are eligible to register for programs at the resident fee. Non-residents may also register but pay a higher non-resident registration fee. Certain programs also accept registration of siblings within the same program. Programs cater to all age groups and ability levels and are held at many different locations.
Two notable parks within North Aurora, Riverfront Park and Island Park, provide a scenic setting for residents to relax and enjoy the Fox River while having a picnic or participating in community events. These parks are located on the east side of the Fox River, just north and south of Rt. 56. The North Aurora River District Alliance is a local volunteer organization actively involved in both parks. In 2014 they hosted three concerts at Riverfront Park. River edge properties, including the bike paths, are owned and maintained, for the most part, by the Kane County Forest Preserve. Several other local and state organizations participate in the preservation of the river and adjoining environment.
Nestled on the east bank of the Fox River, just south of Batavia is the Red Oak Nature Center surrounded by 40 acres of lush forest and wildlife habitat—an ideal setting for visitors to learn about the great outdoors through direct interaction with nature. The center’s famous cave is getting some upgrades, but should be open and explore-able again by mid-May. They are renovating the stairs and stair rail, adding new flagstone around the walking areas and removing the old, chain-link fence on the hill above. A new, natural wood fence will replace it.
Two other parks of note are Bennett Park and Jones Meadow Park. Bennett Park, 2000 Rockwood Ln., features a bicycle path, picnic area, playground, and shelter with grills. The two-acre Jones Meadow Park, 1501 Mooseheart Rd., features a picnic area, playground and walking path. A very active neighborhood group aided in the design of this park space. Because of the input of the neighborhood group, the playground at this site is one of the most ADA accessible in the area. Both parks are part of the Batavia Park District.
Parks have a value to communities that transcend the amount of dollars invested or the revenues gained from fees. Parks provide a sense of public pride and cohesion to every community…North Aurora is certainly no exception.