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Park Forest
Thursday, May 19, 2022

Opening of Somonauk Nature Adventure Park Gets Closer

drawing of park with lush vegitation surrounding blue pond
Artist rendering of the completed Somonauk Adventure Park (Village of Park Forest Image)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Work on the new Somonauk Nature Adventure Park is on target for completion by the end of June, according to Park Forest Parks, Recreation and Community Health Director Rob Gunther. The new park, unlike anything currently in the village, will offer residents access to kayaking, fishing, walks, and ziplining.

Rob Gunther spoke about the Village's urban forestry plan.
Rob Gunther, Park Forest Director of Recreation, Parks & Community Health. (VOPF)

The 16-acre park will feature a two-acre pond equipped with kayak rentals and two accessible fishing piers surrounded by native landscaping. Construction of the kayak shed and launch are completed, as are the fishing piers. Gunther said that residents will be able to rent a kayak for a nominal fee, or bring their own kayak or canoe for no charge. The village is still working on plans to staff the facility.

Wooden platform built into the water in front of blue shed
Workers putting the final touches on the kayak shed and launch. (Village of Park Forest Photo)

While the village does not plan to rent fishing equipment, the pond will be stocked with species such as catfish and bluegills. Gunther is currently working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on requirements for fishing licenses, as well as stocking recommendations.

Wooden fishing pier extending into water, Blue building in teh background.
One of the two accessible fishing piers in the new park (Village of Park Forest Photo)

Because the pond is surrounded by native plants and grasses, there will be no ready access to the water except from the kayak launch which minimizes safety and security concerns. Rolls of coconut fiber logs were recently placed around the pond shoreline to reduce erosion and promote the growth of emergent wetland plants.

Wooden bridge across a stream with blue shed in the background
One of two wooden bridges constructed. The coconut fiber logs used to prevent erosion can be seen along the water. (Village of Park Forest Photo)

The installation of 175 feet of zip lines should also be completed by the end of June. Designed to follow the hilly contours of the park, riders will never be more than two feet off the ground. There is no charge for the zip lines, but details regarding access are still in development.

The new park will also feature walkways, benches, over-sized porch swings, and a rocky brook with large boulders and cobbles. A “Friendship Circle,” placed near the water and surrounded by prairie grasses, will be available for family and neighborhood gatherings.

map showing the aspects of new park
Overview of the features of the Somonauk Nature Adventure Park (Village of Park Forest image)

The project is funded by a $395,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Open Space Land Acquisition & Development (OSLAD) program, and a matching grant from the village. Under the terms of the OSLAD grant, allocated monies must be spent within a two-year period that ends in June, hence the push to complete the project as quickly as possible. There is some concern that the completion date may be jeopardized by potential equipment supply issues.

The village hopes that the traffic generated by the park will entice new businesses to open on the south end of the village. While no business will operate within the park boundaries, there are numerous vacant commercial properties near the intersection of Blackhawk Drive and Indianwood Boulevard, at the site of the former Tower Plaza. Potential business opportunities could include a bait shop, an ice cream parlor, and a pizza restaurant, according to Gunther.

There are no immediate changes to the existing playground area planned, although Gunther did note that much of the equipment has been in place for many years and will soon need attention.

The basketball court that used to be in Somonauk Park will be relocated to the field west of the pond. While this work is not part of the Nature Adventure Park project, Gunther hopes that it will also be completed in June.

The tennis courts that were once part of Somonauk Park will not be part of the new park. Gunther noted that the use of outdoor tennis courts has dropped significantly in recent years.

A new pavilion is planned for the park, although Gunther noted that this is not part of the OSLAD grant, and will not be completed until later in the year.

While the park grounds will be open year-round, activities such as the kayak rental and zip-lines will probably not be available during the winter months.

According to the Gunther, there will be a “grand opening” of the facility, although dates and details are still in the works.

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