Yorkville prides itself on variety at its parks

By Karie Angell Luc For Chronicle Media

Riemenschneider Park, 600 Hayden Drive, features a water spray park. (Photo courtesy of city of Yorkville)

It doesn’t matter where you live in Yorkville. Odds are, if you step out your front door, you’re within walking distance to a park.

In fact, it is the mission of the Yorkville Parks and Recreation Department to ensure there is a playground or city-owned open gathering space within a half mile of every resident’s home.

“Why do people decide where to live? Quality of life,” said Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Scott Sleezer. “I think parks and recreation are a big part of that. I believe we are the backbone of the community.”

Because the city has so many natural and manmade boundaries preventing easy travel from neighborhood to neighborhood, it was important for Sleezer and past directors to ensure everyone had equal access to places to play and explore. They didn’t want kids traveling across busy Illinois Routes 34, 47 or 126 in order to find a place to do these thing at.

“By and large, we’ve made the half-mile statistic a reality,” Sleezer said. “We have a few pockets in the city where we don’t meet the threshold,” but they’re hoping to see that change.

Sleezer hopes to add to the 24 playgrounds currently in the park system, and add to the 280 acres of property dedicated to parks and recreation in Yorkville.

This includes the recent addition of a skate park in Bristol Bay, new water features throughout the city, and wheelchair accessible parks in several locations.

The goal follows the department’s mission statement of creating unique park and recreation experiences that enrich lives and create a sense of community.

Keeping this in mind, Sleezer and his co-workers have made it their mission to not only create dozens of playgrounds, but to give them unique themes that make residents want to visit them.

There’s a firetruck themed park with a pole to slide down, ladders to climb and a fire hydrant that shoots out water. There’s a farm-themed park with a barn-shaped shelter, a castle theme park with draw bridges and a rocket ship park that inspires kids to want to fly to outer space.

“We want to give kids unique play and get people traveling out of their own neighborhoods,” Sleezer said. By visiting different themed parks, residents are spending time outside of their own backyards and out in the community.

“A lot of towns will put in multiple playgrounds that are the same. We felt that we wanted to create playgrounds, but we want them all to be unique,” Sleezer said.

In some instances, residents are even invited to help build their local park with their own two hands. Community builds not only foster a sense of community, but encourage residents to take better care of the equipment, Sleezer said.

The playground at Riverfront Park along the Fox River in Yorkville. (Photo courtesy of city of Yorkville)

In addition to out-of-this-world playground equipment, the Parks and Recreation Department is ripe with other outdoor activity. There’s fishing along the river, a wheelchair accessible canoe and kayak shoot, and a new skate park that is sure to turn heads.

With the way things are panning-out, there’s no telling what the future will hold, Sleezer said.

“One of the benefits of our department is that Parks and Recreation is not a park district like most towns have,” he explained. “There’s a real benefit to being part of the city.”

When developers come in, the department has a larger voice in dictating where they’d like to see parks sprout up. If developers don’t meet the wants, wishes and needs of the Park and Recreation Department, their plans could be denied by the city.

“A regular park district is its own island from the city and doesn’t have the bargaining ability that we have,” Sleezer said. “I think this is a good, effective way to do things.”

The department’s success is evident.

For a listing of all the parks and playgrounds Yorkville has to offer, visit http://yorkville.il.us/Facilities.




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