The Park District of Highland Park has provided generations of residents with cherished memories of first teams, first friends, and first jobs. The parks are places to gather with friends and family, spaces to celebrate life’s special moments, spots of respite and healing, sites that connect us with essential community services, and so much more.

For Parks and Recreation Month, we are reaching out to our residents to share their cherished memories and stories about what the Park District means to them. 

If you have a favorite Park Story you would like to share, please email nwong@pdhp.org.

Here are just a few of their stories…

“In the summer of 1975, I was working as a lifeguard at Rosewood Beach. I had to stop by my manager’s office, where I saw a very attractive college girl being interviewed. She was hired to work as a cashier at Rosewood.  It took me the entire summer to work up the courage to ask her out on a date. We have now been married for over 43 years.”

Todd Keil

“I was awarded part-time seasonal employee by the Park District on two occasions during my camp counselor years. It is one of the greatest honors to this day because I was SO happy in my youth there and was happy to give back to other kids. From ballet classes as a 4-5-year-old with Mrs. Ettlinger to working the Rec Center desk with Gilda and Marsha Schramm in college, I really never left but for a few tennis camp summers up at Ripon College. A delicious memory is the nature guy Marc Bard’s “Sunset Stew,” that we all made, ate and loved. I think the recipe is still in my mom’s tin holder in my cabinet.”

Barbara Meldman Rosenberg

“I attended Sunset Park Day Camp and played Little League and Pony League baseball at Sunset Park through the summers of 1964-1970. I worked for the Park District from 1974-1981. As a coach, the privilege and opportunity of sharing baseball knowledge and life lessons I had learned to young men between the ages of 10-13, all flavored with the spirit of having fun and embracing the enjoyment of the game, made the opportunity of coaching Park District Little League baseball rewarding and unforgettable. To Chuck Schramm, Bruno Sommenzi and Tommy Inman, I am forever grateful for life lessons learned.  Not to be forgotten are coaches Mike McKillip and Bruce Frichie for their unforgettable roles as well.”

Neal Swire

“I fondly remember those yellow and blue t-shirts from Sunset Day Camp.  I loved the Sloppy Joe’s that were served on special occasions. When I was a teenager, I taught tennis at Centennial Park and Red Oak school. I rode my bicycle with baskets filled with tennis balls. Nothing was as much fun as going downhill on Half Day Road. Going home was another story, but I didn’t care. I loved teaching tennis. As an adult, I volunteered clearing buckthorn and collecting seeds under the supervision of Rebecca Grill, director of Natural Areas. In 2012, she helped me get a summer job with the maintenance crew under the direction of Ted Baker. I loved driving old truck number 60 and its big water tank as I commuted from park to park taking care of the annual beds. I was between corporate jobs at the time and the work was very satisfying for so many reasons.”

Karen M. Finerman

“I played in the Park District Little Leagues ‘till I was 10.  Then it was the pool all the time. Lots of laps at Twin Pools. As a 19-year-old, I umpired the men’s’ 16” softball league every Tuesday and Thursday night at West Ridge Park. As you can imagine, I wasn’t very well received by the “men” who played. They didn’t like a 19-year-old making the decisions, I guess.”

Marty Zimmerman

“….Honestly, I figured I’d have a couple things to say, but as I thought more and more about how much time I spent at the Rec Center and Sunset Park, I realized how much the Park District did for me.  And at this moment, having already written over 1700 words, I am realizing that I haven’t even touched on the Twin Pools, the beaches, ice-skating lessons and free skate at Sunset Park.  WOW!”

Julie Neff Encinas

Since 1985, America has celebrated July as the nation’s official Park and Recreation Month. Created by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), Park and Recreation Month specifically highlights the essential and powerful role that local park and recreation agencies and their professionals – play in building stronger, more vibrant, and resilient communities across the country.

For 113 years, the Park District of Highland Park has been an integral part of this vibrant community providing connections to open space and recreational programs, promoting health and wellness, and improving our residents’ physical, emotional, and mental health.  

Today, the Park District manages over 800 acres of parkland and natural areas. According to NRPA, 260 million people in the United States visited a local park or recreation facility at least once during the past year. More than seven in 10 U.S. residents have at least one local park, playground, open space, or recreation center within walking distance of their homes. In Highland Park, 90% of our residents are within a ten-minute walk to one of our 45 parks – a benefit that only a small percentage of communities in the United States can tout.

Living close to parks and other recreation facilities is consistently related to higher physical activity levels for adults and youth. Moreover, parks provide a connection to nature, which studies demonstrate relieves stress, strengthens interpersonal relationships, and improves mental health. In the U.S., 93% of adults say their mental health is improved by services offered by local park and recreation agencies. The Park District of Highland Park provides over 3,000 adult and youth programs annually, including art, athletics, gymnastics, swimming, dance, childhood enrichment, fitness, golf, ice skating, nature programs, pickleball, tennis, and more.

Park Districts also continuously create job opportunities for full-time, part-time, and seasonal positions. This summer, the Park District of Highland Park has employed over 287 young adults and teens in important positions for the community and as a jumping-off point for their careers.   

This July, we are bringing attention to how important it is to rise up and support the field of parks and recreation because every day, park and recreation professionals rise up for their communities in service of equity, climate-readiness, and overall health and well-being.

Before heading out to your favorite Park District of Highland Park facility on 4th of July weekend, check out our hours!

FacilitySaturday, July 2Sunday, July 3Monday, July 4
Centennial Ice ArenaClosedClosedClosed
Deer Creek Racquet Club8am-noon8am-noonClosed, No Classes
Heller Nature Center9am-3pm; Trails Open 7:30am to DuskBuilding Closed, Trails Open 7:30am to DuskBuilding Closed, Trails Open 7:30am to Dusk
Hidden Creek AquaParkLap Swim - 5:30am-10am; Open Swim - 10am-7pmLap Swim - 5:30am-10am; Open Swim - 10am-7pmLap Swim - 5:30am-10am; Open Swim - 10am-7pm
Highland Park Golf Learning Center8am-7pm8am-7pm8am-5pm
Recreation Center of Highland Park7am-4pm7am-4pm7am-12pm
River's Edge Mini Golf8am-7pm8am-7pm8am-5pm
Rosewood Beach10am-6pm10am-6pm10am-6pm
Sunset Valley Golf Club6am-8pm (weather permitting)6am-8pm (weather permitting)6am-8pm (weather permitting)
West Ridge CenterClosedClosedClosed

Join Us for Highland Park’s 4th of July Celebration!

9:30AM | CHILDREN’S BIKE AND PET PARADE
Downtown Highland Park

10AM | HIGHLAND PARK PARADE
Downtown Highland Park

11AM-2PM | FOURTH FEST
Sunset Woods Park

3:45PM | CONCERT & FIREWORKS
Wolters Field

Updates from the May Park Board Meetings

May 18: Workshop Meeting of the Park Board

The Park Board of Commissioners adopted the Beach and Boating Safety Week Proclamation declaring May 23 – 30 as Highland Park Beach and Boating Safety Week and encouraged that these safe practices continue throughout the summer.

The Park Board of Commissioners reconsidered the approval to enter into an agreement with Securatex and rejected all the proposals received on April 13, 2022, for the 2022 Lakefront Security Services. As a result, an emergency approval to enter into an agreement with Gamma Team Security, Inc for Lakefront Security Services was approved by the Park Board of Commissioners.  

The Park Board of Commissioners approved Base Bid Items 1, 2, and 3 and Alternates 1 and 2 from Team REIL Inc. for the 2022 Moraine Park Path Improvement Project, and authorized the Executive Director to enter into an agreement in the amount of $586,314. Also approved was revisions to Section 8.9 “Participation in Programs and Use of Facilities” in the Part-Time Employee Personnel Policy Manual, Section 8.13 “Participation in Programs and Use of Facilities” in the Full-Time Employee Personnel Policy Manual, and Ordinance 2022-04 Authorizing and Providing for the Conveyance or Sale of Surplus Personal Property.

Other updates included a brief overview of the events in June to celebrate the grand opening of The Preserve of Highland Park, an engineering proposal from Gewalt Hamilton Associate to replace the concrete deck and shade structures at Hidden Creek AquaPark, a review of the Centennial Ice Arena renovation project and timeline, and progress reports for the bridge replacement and removal along with cart path resurfacing projects at Sunset Valley Golf Club.  

May 25: Annual Meeting of the Park Board

Commissioner Grossberg was elected for President of the Park Board and Commissioner Freeman was elected for Vice President. Executive Director Romes was appointed as Secretary to the Park Board, Coordinator Hejnowski was appointed as Assistant Secretary acting under the general supervisor of the Secretary, Director Peters was appointed as Treasurer, Director Kopka was appointed as the District’s IMRF authorized agent, Sikich LLP was appointed as the District’s auditor, and Ancel Glink was appointed as the District’s attorney.

May 25: Regular Meeting of the Park Board

The Park Board of Commissioners approved the Executive Director’s Annual Salary and the Hidden Creek AquaPark Concrete Deck Replacement Engineering Services Agreement.

Manager Acevedo provided a programming and staffing update for summer operations at Hidden Creek AquaPark and Rosewood Beach. Manager Pierce provided an update of summer operations for Park Avenue Beach and Boating Facility.

May 26: Finance Committee Meeting

Sikich LLP presented upon the Annual Comprehensive Report and commended staff since there were no deficiencies and zero adjustments were made.

Before heading out to your favorite Park District of Highland Park facility on Memorial Day weekend, check out our hours!

FacilitySaturday, May 28Sunday, May 29Monday, May 30
Centennial Ice ArenaClosedClosedClosed
Deer Creek Racquet ClubClosed, No ClassesClosed, No ClassesClosed, No Classes
Heller Nature CenterBuilding Closed, Trails Open 7:30am to DuskBuilding Closed, Trails Open 7:30am to DuskBuilding Closed, Trails Open 7:30am to Dusk
Hidden Creek AquaParkLap Swim - 5:30am-10am; Open Swim - 10am-7pmLap Swim - 5:30am-10am; Open Swim - 10am-7pmLap Swim - 5:30am-10am; Open Swim - 10am-7pm
Highland Park Golf Learning Center8am-7pm8am-7pm8am-7pm
Recreation Center of Highland Park7am-6pm7am-6pm7am-12pm
River's Edge Mini Golf8am-7pm8am-7pm8am-7pm
Rosewood Beach10am-6pm10am-6pm10am-6pm
Sunset Valley Golf Club6am-8pm (weather permitting)6am-8pm (weather permitting)6am-8pm (weather permitting)
West Ridge CenterClosedClosedClosed
HCAP

Hidden Creek AquaPark

Saturday, May 28 – Opening Day!

No matter what your age, you will have fun at Hidden Creek AquaPark speeding down the water slides, free-falling from the drop slide, climbing through the water playground, swimming in the zero-depth entry, six-lane lap pool, or just relaxing on the deck. If you don’t feel like swimming, stretch out on the lounge chairs on the large deck and lawn areas to catch some rays or cool yourself under the shaded areas.

Rosewood Beach

Saturday, May 28 – Opening Day!

Rosewood is an award-winning national beach that features a nature cove for ecological and nature programs, a guarded swimming beach, and a recreation beach.

Rosewood Beach Swimming Season Passes and Lakefront Parking Decals are required for each individual to access the swimming and recreation beach coves during the swimming season.

Miniature Golf

River’s Edge Mini Golf

Enjoy our challenging 18-hole mini golf course. Fun for the whole family. First nine holes are ADA accessible.

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Heller Nature Center

Enchanted Forest Trail

Experience our outdoor exhibit featuring fairy and gnome homes along the walking trails of the Enchanted Forest at Heller Nature Center.

Sunset Valley Golf Club

Enchanted Forest Trail

Everyone is talking about this golf course. Renovated in 2018, the multi-award-winning Sunset Valley attracts golfers from all over the Metro-Chicago area. The course’s breathtaking British heathland design and the relaxed vibe of the remodeled clubhouse make the club a unique destination for golfers and dining guests just wanting to take in the view.

The Park District of Highland Park works with many partners to maintain and nurture its designated natural areas, all 350 acres of them. Working with other agencies, including the Shedd Aquarium, the Chicago Botanic Garden, Lake-Cook Audubon, and local school districts, builds a shared understanding that guides the management of our natural areas.

 The Park District was among the first to participate in a citizen science project launched in 2017 by the Shedd Aquarium’s research team in collaboration with the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology. The Shedd started the project to increase their understanding of the local impacts of climate change and contribute to the natural history of Great Lakes fish.

 The Park District provided initial observations with three of 17 monitoring sites located in Highland Park. Their staff and volunteers join others throughout the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior borders in Wisconsin and Michigan. “We work with scientists at the Shedd to track migratory fish that are moving out of Lake Michigan into the Ravine streams that are tributary to the lake,” says Rebecca Grill, natural areas manager for the Park District. “Seeing the results from the other sites gives us a sense of what is happening on the larger scale and over time.”

 The Park District is also a longtime partner in the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plants of Concern program. The project was launched in 2001 to monitor rare, threatened, and endangered plant populations. “The Park District can effectively and proactively protect our ecosystems and better manage our rare plant populations with the information gathered,” says Grill.

 The Park District also helps record the migratory and resident birds that use the lakefront in collaboration with Lake-Cook Audubon, the local chapter of the Illinois Audubon Society.

 One of the Park District’s most rewarding partnerships has been with local school districts for the “Trout in the Classroom” program, a collaboration between the Park District, North Shore School District 112 and 113, Highland Park High School Environmental Science students, the Gary Borger Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Heller Nature Center staff, and our own Natural Areas Program.

 “Trout in the Classroom” culminates in fish release events, at which students release rainbow trout they’ve raised in their classrooms into select ravine streams. One of the program’s hopes is that once they reach maturity, the fish will return to the ravines to spawn, indicating that they are a healthy wildlife habitat.

What makes these partnerships so important, according to Grill, is that by collecting and sharing information regionally, we create a more comprehensive picture of what is happening long term. It is also a chance for Highland Park to highlight our community’s unique natural habitats. “These regional connections are an important tool in decision making to keep our natural areas healthy and protected,” she says.

Imagine that your backyard covers 800 acres. If you live in Highland Park, in a way, it does. That is the size of the land cared for within the boundaries of the Park District of Highland Park.

Caring for this big outdoor space is a team overseen by Dan Voss, Director of Parks.  “It definitely requires a multi-pronged approach,” notes Voss. “There is a difference in managing a large community park such as Danny Cunniff Park with its athletic fields and playgrounds and a woodland preserve such as Heller Nature Center.

Consider the District’s newest park –The Preserve of Highland Park.  Located adjacent to the Recreation Center of Highland Park, the new park includes 100 acres of green lawns, nature-based play areas, specialized native gardens, restored woodlands, and walking and biking trails that connect neighborhoods, downtown Highland Park, and regional biking trails.

The first thing a new visitor to The Preserve may notice is that half of the Park’s acres are planted with native flowers and select grasses that thrive there. These new habitat areas are a welcome addition to the land already managed by the District’s natural areas program led by Rebecca Grill, natural areas manager.

“It’s a park that will attract people who won’t necessarily seek out a forest preserve or even our own Heller Nature Center,” Grill says. “At the same time, it is a park we will manage a little bit differently than our other large community parks such as Cunniff or Fink Parks. 

One surprise may be the necessity of mowing native areas. “That surprises people,” Grills says. “They say, ‘Why did you cut everything down? It looked great.’ We have to think down the road, and sometimes we have to mow down areas to add additional seeds, or because we have invasive annual weeds growing.”

At the same time, there will be more traditional gardening going on than at any of the designated natural areas as found in parks such as Heller.  Specialized gardens that showcase pollinator plants, native shrubs, and native plants in a traditional garden bed will require careful pruning and care of native shrubs and a small grove of apple trees.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t have green spaces within The Preserve,” Grill continues. “That was deliberate in creating areas for picnicking or areas for a pick-up ballgame. Stepping in and out of natural areas into those mowed green areas will give visitors a sense of stewardship.”

For those areas, traditional parks maintenance including weed whipping, lawn mowing, and trash removal will be essential. “To cover both aspects, the District has been able to bring on staff that has specialized skills in ecological restoration and knows how to manage a traditional park,” says Voss.

An essential part of the Park District’s management program is its volunteers. Grill estimates volunteers perform about 2,000 hours of community service annually. “A core group helps us every Friday working in different locations,” she says.  Put these all together, and you get a success story like the Skokie-River Woods project. Since 2009, roughly 15 acres of wetlands on the parcel of land along Highway 41 have been restored or enhanced. This was done in consort with the City of Highland Park, which owns the land, the Lake County Forest Preserve District, the Stormwater Management Commission (SMC), grant money through the Illinois Department of Resources and volunteer groups such as the Boy Scouts, whose troop members pulled invasive plants like buckthorn. In 2016, the Park District won an SMC award for best management practices.

“We’re fortunate that Highland Park residents appreciate, enjoy, and understand their natural areas,” Voss says. “We’re very appreciative we have support from our Park Board and lucky we’re able to have a budget that allows us to not only have staff to maintain the areas but also to bring in contractual services that we would otherwise not have the manpower to perform.”

To inquire about volunteering with the Park District of Highland Park, contact Liz Ricketts at ericketts@pdhp.org.

Join us on Saturday, June 4 from 10am – noon, for the Community Grand Opening Celebration of The Preserve of Highland Park, our new park and natural area! Enjoy a morning of free fun activities including:

   

Saturday, June 4

10am-12pm

The Preserve of Highland Park
1207 Park Ave West
Highland Park, IL 60035

About the Preserve

Conversion of the site from its historical use as a golf course began in November 2020. Today, The Preserve of Highland Park celebrates nature and our place in it. The unique 100+ acre property was designed to take advantage of the interesting golf-related topography and includes green lawns, nature-based play areas, specialized native gardens, restored woodlands, and walking and biking trails that connect neighborhoods and downtown Highland Park, and regional biking trails. Visitors can immerse themselves in the sights, sounds, and experiences of nature and outdoor play.

Updates from the May Park Board Meetings

April 13: Facility and Recreation Committee Meeting

Park Board Commissioners met with the principal architect at Holabird and Root to discuss conceptual planning for the West Ridge Park and Site Project.  

April 13: Workshop Meeting of The Park Board

The Park District of Highland Park received six sealed bids on Wednesday, February 23, 2022, for materials and labor to complete the 2022 Park Avenue Boat Launch Improvements Project. Staff provided an update on project funding options. 

April 20: Lakefront, Parks, and Natural Areas Committee Meeting

Staff provided an update on the Moraine Fencing Improvement Project which is intended to address access control for patrons who visit Moraine Beach. Based on staff’s findings, the Committee favored the option to continue messaging that the beach is open for all patrons and will be entirely open for off-leash dogs.  

Staff provided an update on Sunset Woods Park Playground, including landscaping and signage plans. The project remains under budget, with an anticipated grand opening in June of 2022.

Staff also provided an update on the welcome signage at Sunset Woods Park and the incorporation of the Sheahen Woods history. 

April 20: Finance Committee Meeting

Staff provided an update on the Dectron Mechanical System at the Recreation Center of Highland Park, which is budgeted to be replaced in 2023. 

Staff also reviewed the April request for proposals and bid results.  

April 27: Regular Meeting of The Park Board

The Park Board of Commissioners approved the base bid from Lakes and Rivers Contracting, Inc. for the 2022 Park Avenue Breakwater and Boat Launch Project, authorizing the Executive Director to enter an agreement in the amount of $2,221,890. Contributing funds for this project have been made possible from community donations to the Park Foundation of Highland Park, totaling $400,000. The Park Board also authorized the Executive Director to enter into an agreement with SmithGroup for the Park Avenue Boat Launch Construction Administration Project Proposal in the amount of $68,000. Consent Agenda items approved by the Park Board of Commissioners included the 2022 Park Avenue Dredging Project, the 2022 Lakefront Security Services Request for Proposals, the 2022 Heller Nature Center Entrance Improvements Project Bid, and the Recreation Center of Highland Park Mechanical Engineering Proposal. 

The Park Board of Commissioners deferred consideration to approve the Moraine Park Path Improvement Project Rebid to the May 11 Workshop Meeting. 

Rosewood Beach Swimming Season Passes

Beach passes are required for each individual (over 4 years of age) to access the Rosewood swimming and recreation beach coves during the swimming season beginning Memorial Day weekend.

Beach Pass Fees:

Resident Season Pass – FREE (with proof of residency)
Non-resident Season Pass –  $100 (head of household) and $25 (each additional household member)
Non-resident Daily Pass – $10 per person

Rosewood Beach Swimming Passes are Available for Pick-Up/Purchase

Recreation Center of Highland Park

1207 Park Ave W.

Lakefront Parking Decals

Lakefront parking decals are required for all vehicles at all lakefront parking lots. Residents and non-residents are required to purchase a decal annually.

Residents who purchased and provided proof of residency for 2021 Parking Decals: Online purchase is available now through Saturday, April 30. Your 2022 Lakefront Parking decals will be mailed to your home address the first week in May.

Online sales are limited to 2021 pass holders who previously provided proof of residency. If you didn’t have a 2021 parking decal please visit the Recreation Center to purchase. Once issued, decals will be mailed to the address on file the week of May 1st.

For new residents and those who did not purchase 2021 Lakefront Parking Decals, in-person purchase is required: In-person purchase begins Sunday, May 1 at the Recreation Center of Highland Park. You must show proof of residency (see below for details) to purchase your decal. Parking decals may also be purchased at Rosewood Beach, and Hidden Creek AquaPark starting on Thursday, May 26.

Parking Decal Fees:

Resident: $30 (with proof of residency)
Provides parking access every day including holidays through December 31, 2022, at the following beach lots: Lower Rosewood, Upper Rosewood, Park Avenue – North Lot, Central Park – Upper Lot, Millard, and Moraine. Valid dawn to dusk every day.

Non-resident: $285   
Provides parking access every day, excluding holidays, through December 31, 2022, to the following beach lots: Upper Rosewood, Park Avenue –  North Lot, Central Park –  Upper Lot, Millard, and Moraine. Valid dawn to dusk every day, excluding holidays.

Rosewood Daily Parking: $40/4 hours or $15/hour (Valid for Upper Rosewood Lot only. Pay for parking in upper lot at auto-attendant). Not valid on holidays (July 4, Memorial Day, and Labor Day). Non-resident daily parking is not allowed at Moraine, Central, Millard, Park Avenue – North Lot, Rosewood Lower Lot.

Get Ready for Summer

Grab your Rosewood swag from our official ParkShop and head to the beach in style!

All proceeds from the shop benefit the Parks Foundation of Highland Park!