History of the Park District
The Cary Park District, established in 1971, is comprised of 52 parks and parcels of approximately 846 acres including trails and open space. The Park District serves approximately 21,400 residents in the communities of Cary, Fox River Grove, Trout Valley, and parts of Oakwood Hills, Lake in the Hills, and unincorporated McHenry County.
The formation of the Cary Park District is traced back to 1963 when an interest survey by the Jaycees indicated a strong community desire for a swimming pool. The Jaycees concluded that the only way that a community swimming pool could be developed was with the formation of a park district.
Cary Park District was created by referendum. The charter commissioners were T. Larry Phalin, Michael D. Collins, James F. Hollahan, Paul W. Dianis, and Robert M. Skallerup.
The Park District hired its first two employees, both working part time for the District. The Park District office was a room rented from the Village on the second floor of the Cary Village Hall on West Main Street, which is now the Kraus Senior Citizen Center.
The first full-time employee and director were hired.
The Village of Cary transferred several parks to the Cary Park District. The property included Water Tower Prairie Park, Jamesway Park, Deveron Circle, Lions Park, Val Budd Park, and Greenfields Park.
The Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association (NISRA) was created to meet the recreational needs of residents with disabilities. The Cary Park District was a charter member of the association that has provided recreational programs for many residents for the last 40 years.
Bond referendum to build a community pool and recreation center passed. With this referendum, the Park District fulfilled one goal of its creation: meeting the need for a swimming pool in Cary.
The Village of Cary transferred Greensfield Park and the Community Center Building Parcels to the Park District.
Community Center and Pool were dedicated and opened to the public.
The Maintenance Building and attached Community Room were built at Lions Park. This project was a joint effort by various organizational groups. The Jaycees raised money to finish the interior and furnish the Community Room, while supporters, leaders, and members of Boy Scout Troop 160 donated most of the labor.
Throughout the 80s and 90s the Cary area experienced explosive growth. The Park District along with the villages and unincorporated areas it served also grew. The population served by the Park District grew to over 21,000 people.
Candlewood Park (4.90 acres) was acquired by subdivision development ordinance. Cary Veterans Park (6.20 acres) was acquired by agreement with the Village of Cary by Warranty Deed.
Montana Open Space/Detention (0.53 acres) was acquired by subdivision development ordinance.
Jaycee Park was acquired by subdivision development ordinance. The Park District received a Federal HCRS Grant to acquire additional land at Lions Park.
Preschool for three and four year olds began in the Lions Park Community Room.
The Park District received a Federal LWCF Grant for field development and playground equipment at Lions Park.
Hillhurst Open Space/Detention Area was acquired by subdivision development ordinance.
Hillside Prairie Park, a rare remnant of gravel hill prairie, and Three Oaks Park was acquired by separate subdivision development ordinances.
Sands Main Street Prairie was acquired by condemnation and final judgment order. Hampton Park was acquired by subdivision development ordinance.
The Park District responded to an increase in early childhood and youth programming with the construction of a new maintenance garage and the renovation of the existing building. The remodel allowed the Preschool to add to it’s enrollment and provided space for early childhood programs. Next, the Park District offered Extended Time, a before and after school program held at the elementary schools.
Patriot Meadows Subdivision Outlots A/B and Knotty Pines Park were acquired by separate subdivision development ordinances. Sands Main Street Prairie was acquired and included a house, garage, barn, and chicken coop.
Community Center Park parcels purchased. Sands Main Street Prairie was dedicated as the 199th Illinois Nature Preserve. The Rotary Bandshell at Lions Park was constructed through cooperative efforts between the Cary-Grove Rotary Club and the Park District.
Kaper Park and Cimarron Open Space/Detention Area were acquired by separate subdivision development ordinances.
Cary Veterans Park dedicated at the Memorial Day Ceremony, May 31, as a tribute to those who served our country. The entrance to Lions Park was enhanced with an entry sign made possible through a cooperative venture between the Park District and the Cary Lions Club. Lastly, the Community Center weight room and locker room/shower facilities received a makeover presenting a fresh new look and equipment that provided both comfort and convenience.
The Park District adopted the 1994 Comprehensive Master Plan. The Master Plan provided a road map of development for the Park District throughout the next ten years. Fox Trails Park Lease Agreement with School District 26 was established. Project Timbertown, a one-of-a-kind community-built playground, began.
Brittany Park, Kiwanis Park and Outlots, and 4.9 acres of Cary-Grove Park were acquired by separate subdivision development ordinance. Timbertown, a community-built playground development, was completed at Kaper Park.
Community Center renovation was completed, adding a conference room, multi-purpose room, dance room, fitness room, and office space. The Park District received an Illinois OSLAD Grant (165,700) awarded for the Jaycees Park renovation project.
A corporate rate increase (0.25/$EAV) referendum passes by vote of 1,838 yes to 1,378 no. Cary Oaks Park (4.3 acres) was acquired by subdivision development ordinance. Jaycee Park renovation is completed. The renovation project included converting the pavilion to a warming shelter and adding bathrooms. Hoffman Park (258 acres) was acquired by purchase. The Park District received an Illinois First Funds grant in the amount of $400,000 for development purposes of the site.
Kindergarten Extended Time (KET), a before and after school program for kindergarten-aged children was offered to families enrolled in Cary schools. The Park District joins the Park District Risk Management Agency (PDRMA), a self-insurance risk pool made up of over one hundred Illinois park and recreation agencies. The Park District received PDRMA’s highest safety award in recognition of the District implementing a comprehensive safety program and receiving high scores on safety program evaluations. Decker Park & Trails and Saddle Oaks Park were acquired by subdivision development ordinance. Cary-Grove Park (additional 78 acres) was acquired by condemnation and subsequent court order. Illinois Distinguished Park & Recreation Agency Award was present to the Park District, the first designated agency in McHenry County.
Hoffman Park (additional 8 acres) was acquired by agreement with Lake in the Hills. The Park Foundation of Southeast McHenry County was officially created to provide financial assistance to the Cary Park District.
White Oaks Park (0.52 acres) and White Oaks Subdivision Outlot B (0.40 acres) was acquired by subdivision development ordinance. Chalet Hills Park (0.67 acres) was acquired by purchase.
Jamesway Park (additional 0.5 acres) was acquired by purchase. Foxford Hills Park (0.62 acres) and Wentworth Park (0.40 acres) were acquired by subdivision development ordinance. The trail connection between Cary-Grove Park and Sterling Ridge Linear Park was completed on School District 26 property by easement agreement.
Foxford Hills Golf Club (194.87 acres), Fox Trails Park (1 acre), and additional property (0.2074 acres) at Cary-Grove Park were acquired by purchase. Properties acquired by subdivision development ordinance included Sterling Ridge Linear Park/Trailway (1.63 acres), Cambria Park (1.527 acres), Cambria Park OSD (8.828 acres), Hoffman Park adjacent land (7.274 acres), New Haven Park & OSD (5.48 acres), and Cary Woods Park (0.50 acres).
Cary-Grove Park (1.83 acres) property was dedicated to the Village of Cary as roadway and intersection at First Street and Three Oaks Road. The Park District received a Conservation & Native Landscaping Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Chicago Wilderness Society for the Jaycee Park renovation.
Decker Park (0.10 acres) adjacent land was acquired by subdivision development ordinance. The Community Center lobby underwent a facelift to better serve the needs of both those who use the facility and those who work within the space. Improvements included more flat space for guests to write upon, more storage space, and improved accessibility to the area for those with disabilities. Cary Woods Park was developed. The Illinois Distinguished Park & Recreation Agency Award was presented to the Park District for the second time. The Park District received two Programming Our World awards at the 2006 Programming Our World Conference in Michigan. Best Family Program: Monkey Bars; Best Environmental Program: IPRA Canoe Trip. The Cary Park District Board of Commissioners approved the 2006 Master Plan and Strategic Plan.
The Park District launched a new and improved website with several interactive features including a park and trail map, events calendar, athletic league organizer, and many other features. The Park District received the Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA). The award is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting. The Park District purchased and installed an electronic message sign in Jaycee Park on the corner of Silver Lake and Three Oaks Roads. Wentworth Park development completed. A referendum asking voters permission to sell up to 80-acres of the westernmost portion of Hoffman Park failed by a margin of 140 votes.
The Park District wins “Best Website” and “Most Improved Marketing Piece” in the Illinois Park and Recreation Association Agency Showcase Competition. The competition is the premier communication and marketing competition for park and recreation agencies in Illinois. The Park District received a second Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA). WiFi was installed both in the Community Center and Foxford Hills Golf Club. Chalet Hills Park was developed and Greenfields Park playground was renovated. Lyons Ridge outlot, Phase IV was accepted. New skate park opened at Lions Park. The Park District attempted a second referendum asking voters permission to sell up to 80-acres of the westernmost portion of Hoffman Park. The referendum passed.
The renovation of the Cary Park District Community Center began in June and was completed in December. The racquetball courts were removed and replaced with program/meeting rooms, a banquet facility, and fully equipped kitchen. All equipment was replaced in the Fitness Center, as well as all flooring, lighting, and decor. An OSLAD grant of $391,000 was obtained to help with the Hoffman Park development of a dog park. West Lake Park was accepted and dedicated in September.The Park District receives the Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA).
Construction of the Cary Community Trail began in the spring. The nearly 2.0 mile trail links and provides nearly 6.0 miles of trail throughout the north east section of the Cary community. The trail links 4 elementary schools, the high school, the library, 2 subdivisions, 2 Cary Park District properties, and a McHenry County Conservation District property. The Cary Community Trail opened November 2010. Construction on the Hoffman Park Phase 1 Development began in the summer. The plans included an off-leash dog play area, accessible fishing pier, a native prairie habitat and wildlife seed plots, nature observation shelter, accessible community garden plots, demonstration worm-farm, picnic shelter, public support facilities, 4,000 linear feet of trail, and alternative energy generation sources using wind and solar technologies. The Park District received the Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA).
Rapid Reg, an easy and convenient online registration option, launched in the summer. Hoffman Park Phase I development was completed. Amenities included an accessible fishing pier, shelters, parking, restrooms, open dog play area, and .7 miles of trail segment.The Park District received the Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA).
The Community Garden Plots at Hoffman Park were opened for use. Renovation of employee spaces at the Maintenance Garage was completed. The Americans with Disabilities Transition Plan for the Park District was approved by the Board of Commissioners. The Park District received the Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA). The Park District received recognition at the IAPD/IPRA annual conference as an Illinois Distinguished Accredited Agency for the third time.
The Park District entered into a shared project with the Village of Cary for the paving of the Community Center parking lot with added amenities for the safety of the patrons. The Comprehensive Master Plan underwent a historical update. The Park District purchased a new school bus. Once again, Illinois Governmet Finance Officers’ Association presented an award for achievement for excellence in financial reporting.
The Park District reached an agreement with Lake in the Hills for a shared maintenance of the Route 31 Trail. Resolution R-2013-14-03 offered support to Com Ed for the Green Regions Grant. Lions Park was the site of a new multi-use trail. The Cary Park District voted by resolution R-2014-15-01, to support the Silver Creek Watershed. Plans were made and public hearings held for the redesign of Candlewood and Hillside Prairie Park playgrounds. The Preschool went through an RFQ and began the process with an architectural firm to seek a site and build a new Preschool. Pool improvements to the deck and locker room entries were completed prior to the 2014 pool season.
The Park District launched a new and improved mobile-friendly website. Hillside Prairie Park and Candlewood playground were completed. The 2016 Comprehensive Master Plan Update begins.
The Park Board approved an update to the Comprehensive Master Plan. From the input and information gathered, strategies were developed to address the needs and the end result is a plan with a five year strategic plan within a ten year vision for the Park District. The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) of the United States and Canada awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting to the Park District for its comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ending April 30, 2016. Jamesway Park reopened with a brand new design. The park received two new playground structures, benches, and accessible picnic tables. Accessibility to the site and the play structure was improved with a concrete path. The Park Board approved an update to the site master plan for Cary-Grove Park. Development of a Disc Golf Course at Hoffman Park began. The course was laid out across 35-40 acres on the southeast side of the park site. A new and improved online registration system was launched. This new system allowed more programs to be offered for online registration. It allowed people to register through mobile devices, to create wish lists of classes for future registrations, to track payments, and to receive confirmations and receipts.
Construction of Walnut Hollow Disc Golf Course began in Hoffman Park Development of site master plans for Lions Park and Kaper Park began. Both Kaper and Lions Parks were rezoned from residential zoning to Park and Open Space zoning classification with the Village of Cary. Received a $1,140,000 ITEP grant award of the Hoffman Park multi use trail. The 1.4 mile trail extension connects to the existing 2.1 miles of trail at Hoffman Park and provides a continuous loop throughout the park. The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) of the United States and Canada awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting to the Park District for its comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ending April 30, 2017. Received 2017 Loss Control Award from PDRMA for maintaining a current Level A accreditation status. The District scored a 99.43%.