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Where Fun Begins: Fox Valley Park District's Award Winning Parks and Facilities

By Elizabeth Elstien

The Fox River ties together the communities of Aurora, Montgomery and North Aurora, where FVPD maintains 165 parks and 2,400 acres of parkland and open space. The FVPD's crown jewel is 22 miles of Fox River shoreline, which "is the centerpiece of the District," says Public Relations Manager Jeff Long.

Holding the distinction of being the largest park district in Illinois outside of Chicago, its six community centers and other park facilities provide park goers freedom to enjoy a wide variety of fun options, such as educational classes, hiking on its 48 miles of interconnected trails, swimming in their spacious indoor aquatic center or water parks, playing a variety of field and court sports, running on an indoor track, letting the kids play in one of the parks or just enjoying entertainment. Known for its exceptional cleanliness and maintenance, its numerous indoor and outdoor amenities keep residents coming back.

One popular facility is Vaughan Athletic Center, featuring running tracks on several levels, multiple tennis courts, three indoor pools, a water park and a huge field house. Stuart Sports Complex is another much-used facility and hosts regional tournaments drawing hundreds of thousands of athletes and fans each year, as well as having over 30 lighted soccer and eight lighted ball fields.

Blackberry Farm brings 1800s pioneer history to life and draws large crowds. A fun learning experience for all ages, admission includes rides on the train, hay wagon, pedal tractors, paddle boats, carousel and ponies. See farm animals, visit an old house the one-room schoolhouse, walk through heirloom gardens, and learn some old-time skills such as Dutch oven cooking, candling dripping candle dipping and blacksmithing. There is even a museum with 12 old-fashioned stores to keep the pioneer spirit alive.

Red Oak Nature Center, Orchard Valley Golf Course and Copley Boxing and Training Center are other facilities that make the FVPD a much-appreciated community resource.

Long proudly notes, "Eighty-six percent of residents live within one-half mile of a neighborhood or community park, making accessibility one of the FVPD's greatest features."

Perhaps it's this closeness that keeps residents very engaged with the park district, passing two referenda in six years to expand the parks in six years with a nearly 70 percent approval rate to expand the parks. Long continues, "FVPD's staff works closely with residents to make their parks outstanding year-round. Our relationship with residents has promoted a high level of trust and a sense of ownership."

FVPD offers over 40 annual performing arts programs that bring out the creative talents of its participants. As Long notes: "These range from "major stage productions at the Paramount Theatre to childhood acting classes. There's a role for everybody, and it's often reflected in many of the performances, which can feature six-year-old children and 65-year-old actors." It's an all-inclusive program that is quite popular with both participants and performance attendees.

Over the years, Fox Valley Park District (FVPD) has received many state and national awards for its superior park and recreation opportunities for all ages. It's no surprise that another award may be given, as the FVPD is a finalist for the 2015 National Gold Medal Awards for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management which, if won, would be the second third time the District won this prestigious award, and the second time in the last six years.

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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