Facility Profile - September 2012
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From Eyesore to Eye-Catching
River Bend Community Park in St. Charles, Ill.

"If you really want to know what we came up with as far as suggestions, all you have to do is look at the park," Ingersoll said. "We wanted dog parks and walking trails and ball fields, and the Park District took all this information back and designed a plan that showed just what we wanted."

River Bend Community Park has been developed in two phases. The northern section sports basketball courts and a skatepark, a community garden area and picnic groves nestled among existing shade trees, a spacious dog park, and a new fishing pier erected over an already-existing pond. Ample parking can be accessed off Illinois and Geneva Avenues, while hiking trails meander through the grounds. The park's bike paths connect to the nearby Fox River Bike Trail, making the park a delightful destination for bikers who want to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a day's outing.

With its baseball/softball fields, soccer fields and multipurpose athletic fields, the southern section will be open for use in 2012, according to Park District officials. Additional hiking/biking trails will connect to those in the northern section, while the district's horticulture and naturalist staffs will work to restore the existing savannah and install a native landscape buffer in areas that used to be delineated by the aforementioned razor-wire and boarded-up fencing.

River Bend Community Park officially opened on June 20, 2012. More than 100 neighbors attended the festivities, including a basketball contest, pickleball demonstration and various games suitable for the entire family. The Park District also offered picnic-style refreshments provided by WBK Engineering, and skateboard lessons by Choice Skateboards.

The Greater St. Charles Convention & Visitors Bureau participated by having Molly, the Pet Travel Specialist, on site and promoting pet-friendly activities in the area. Midwest Groundcovers donated a variety of native landscaping materials and a tree for the park entrance.

This park represents community activism and government responsiveness at its finest. And while Hoscheit credits the River Bend Community Group for really looking out for their neighborhood and how it could be improved, he also credits the Park District for creating the kind of facility the neighborhood wanted.

The "before-and-after" aspect of the park's development has been inspiring to see. Even once the buildings were gone and before any improvements were made, just the impact of taking out the razor wire fences and allowing a prairie-like setting to develop had tremendous impact in the neighborhood, Hoscheit said.

"In the last 20 years, in my mind at least, this is by far the most significant improvement to that neighborhood," Hoscheit said. "It will be a beautiful park."

Ingersoll agrees. "What more could the Park District do? Gold paving on the parking lots? They've done a fantastic job with everything. We're just thrilled." River Bend Community Park is a one-stop destination for all kinds of recreation opportunities.

St. Charles Park District: www.stcparks.org
Forest Preserve District of Kane County: www.kaneforest.com