Before heading out to a Park District of Highland Park facility on July 4th, be sure to check our hours.

FacilityWednesday, July 3Thursday, July 4
Centennial Ice ArenaClosedClosed
Deer Creek Racquet Club8am-7pmClosed
Heller Nature CenterBuilding: 10:30am-5pm
Trails: 7:30am to Dusk
Building Closed
Trails: 7:30am to Dusk
Hidden Creek AquaParkLap Swim: 8-10am
Open Swim: 11am-8pm
Open Swim: 10am-5pm
Highland Park Golf Learning Center8am-7pm8am-7pm
Recreation Center of Highland ParkRegistration/Fitness/Gym/Track: 5:30am-7pm
Indoor Pool: 5:30am-6:30pm
Registration/Fitness/Gym/Track: 7am-noon
Indoor Pool: 7-11:30am
River's Edge Mini Golf8am-7pm8am-7pm
Rosewood Beach10am-6pm10am-6pm
Sunset Valley Golf Club5:30am to Dusk5:30am-8pm (weather permitting)
West Ridge Center7:30am-9:30pmClosed

In our third and final installment of Parks in Mind, a video series in collaboration with Endeavor Health that explores mental health and recreation, Dr. Fazio and Kyle answer the following questions:

Meet Our Mental Health Professionals

Lindsay T. Fazio, PhD is the System Director of Wellbeing & Vitality for Endeavor Health. Her role is to develop and drive the strategic plan to bring wellbeing to each and every team member no matter their role or responsibility within the organization.

She received her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Indiana State University. She completed her residency in medical psychology at St. James Hospital and Health Centers. Dr. Fazio’s passion is promoting wellness began 20 years ago teaching physicians and physicians-in-training. She works with departments and health systems nationally to monitor burnout provide a programatic series of strengths-based interventions to promote resiliency and engagement across all members of the healthcare team.

Kyle Kovski, LCSW is dedicated to supporting the emotional wellbeing of individuals within Endeavor Health. His dual role as the Wellbeing Support Advisor and System R.I.S.E. Clinical Coordinator showcases his commitment to fostering resilience and creating a supportive culture within the organization.

With his educational background in Social Work, Kyle brings a comprehensive understanding of human behavior and mental health to his role. His clinical experience across different age groups and symptomatology provides him with a nuanced perspective on addressing the diverse needs of individuals. Kyle’s focus on supporting medical professionals is especially impactful, given his firsthand experience in Family Medicine Residency programs support Behavioral Health Education. He recognizes the unique challenges individuals are faced with daily and advocates for the importance of stress management and resilience techniques in mitigating the impact of trauma.

By drawing from his expertise in trauma and emphasizing the importance of holistic wellbeing, Kyle empowers individuals to navigate challenges effectively. His efforts not only benefit the individuals he directly supports but also contribute to creating a culture of support and resilience within Endeavor Health.

Additional Resources

Special Thank You

In our second installment of Parks in Mind, a video series in collaboration with Endeavor Health that explores mental health and recreation, Dr. Fazio and Kyle answer the following questions:

Meet Our Mental Health Professionals

Lindsay T. Fazio, PhD is the System Director of Wellbeing & Vitality for Endeavor Health. Her role is to develop and drive the strategic plan to bring wellbeing to each and every team member no matter their role or responsibility within the organization.

She received her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Indiana State University. She completed her residency in medical psychology at St. James Hospital and Health Centers. Dr. Fazio’s passion is promoting wellness began 20 years ago teaching physicians and physicians-in-training. She works with departments and health systems nationally to monitor burnout provide a programatic series of strengths-based interventions to promote resiliency and engagement across all members of the healthcare team.

Kyle Kovski, LCSW is dedicated to supporting the emotional wellbeing of individuals within Endeavor Health. His dual role as the Wellbeing Support Advisor and System R.I.S.E. Clinical Coordinator showcases his commitment to fostering resilience and creating a supportive culture within the organization.

With his educational background in Social Work, Kyle brings a comprehensive understanding of human behavior and mental health to his role. His clinical experience across different age groups and symptomatology provides him with a nuanced perspective on addressing the diverse needs of individuals. Kyle’s focus on supporting medical professionals is especially impactful, given his firsthand experience in Family Medicine Residency programs support Behavioral Health Education. He recognizes the unique challenges individuals are faced with daily and advocates for the importance of stress management and resilience techniques in mitigating the impact of trauma.

By drawing from his expertise in trauma and emphasizing the importance of holistic wellbeing, Kyle empowers individuals to navigate challenges effectively. His efforts not only benefit the individuals he directly supports but also contribute to creating a culture of support and resilience within Endeavor Health.

Additional Resources

Special Thank You

Walter the Raccoon seems to have left behind some items in our parks, can you help find them?

Each day this week, Walter will leave a clue here (and on our Facebook) about which park he’s visited. When you find Walter with the item left behind at one of our parks, scan the QR code to see what fun activity you can do and enter our drawing to win prizes and a gift card!

Friday, May 24

Walter has almost all of his items back! He’s still missing his hiking boots, though. Can you help him find them in one of our parks? Here’s your clue:

“Our Prairie is abuzz with bees,

You can also walk among the trees,

In the winter you can bring skis,

Finding my home base should be a breeze!”

Thursday, May 23

Where have Walter’s binoculars gone? Can you help him find them in one of our parks? Here’s your clue:

“The ocean is far away from here,

But there is still a beach that we hold dear.

It’s the only beach where you can swim,

But wait till it’s warmer before diving in!”

Wednesday, May 22

Walter can’t find his hiking stick! Can you help him find it in one of our parks? Here’s your clue:

“I thought I’d grab my fishing pole,

And head on past the Pickle Ball or Tennis Courts.

There’s a great little fishing hole,

Where you can see animals of all sorts!

If you see ice you’ve gone too far.”

Tuesday, May 21

Walter’s backpack has gone missing! Can you help him find it in one of our parks? Here’s your clue:

“I’ve been spending all my time today,

On space ship slides and the swing set.

I’ll end my day in the perfect way,

By watching a lovely ____________.”

Monday, May 20

Walter misplaced his map! Can you help him find it in one of our parks? Here’s your clue:

“Not far from where I play Mini-golf,

I went looking for birds I could observe.

But now my Map has wandered off,

So I’m looking for it at the ___________.”

Spring is here, and all around us, animals are waking up and getting ready for an exciting summer. Our bees are gathering pollen from the earliest flowers, Illinois is set to see two periodic broods of cicadas, and frogs and toads can be heard calling all around. Among this waking wildlife is a little arachnid that concerns us each year: the tick. Unfortunately, there will be more ticks this year. The surprising answer as to why actually has to do with acorns. The past two years have been good for acorns, which is good for mice, which is good for ticks. This year, however, we are seeing fewer acorns, which means less mice. With a tick population lagging slightly behind this trend, this year we have lots of ticks with less mice to feed on.

In Illinois, there are typically two common tick types: the deer tick, which carry Lyme disease, and the wood tick. Deer ticks are small and hard to spot, so look out for rashes or bullseye shaped spots on your body. Wood ticks are larger, and while they may not carry Lyme, they are known to carry other germs that may be harmful to humans. 

There is a third tick to look out for this year. The Longhorned Asian Tick has been discovered in Illinois (the 20th state they have been found in so far) and is considered invasive in the US. Currently, it is expected that the tick carries some germs that are dangerous to humans, but we do not know if they can transmit them yet. They are known to be dangerous to livestock and some pets. If you come in contact with a tick, immediately remove it—if you can, try to trap it (a piece of tape works) and keep it. Doctors can sometimes test a tick that bit you to see if there is cause for concern.

The Illinois Department of Health has posted some excellent guidelines for preventing tick bites:

Don’t Let a Tick Make You Sick

Downloadable Flyers

Introducing Parks in Mind, a conversation exploring mental health and recreation in collaboration with Endeavor Health. In this video series, two mental health professionals come together for an informed discussion on mental health and emotional wellbeing, Parks and Recreation’s important role in mental health, coping with challenges and stress, the benefits of social connection, and more.

In this video, Dr. Fazio and Kyle answer the following questions:

Meet Our Mental Health Professionals

Lindsay T. Fazio, PhD is the System Director of Wellbeing & Vitality for Endeavor Health. Her role is to develop and drive the strategic plan to bring wellbeing to each and every team member no matter their role or responsibility within the organization.

She received her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Indiana State University. She completed her residency in medical psychology at St. James Hospital and Health Centers. Dr. Fazio’s passion is promoting wellness began 20 years ago teaching physicians and physicians-in-training. She works with departments and health systems nationally to monitor burnout provide a programatic series of strengths-based interventions to promote resiliency and engagement across all members of the healthcare team.

Kyle Kovski, LCSW is dedicated to supporting the emotional wellbeing of individuals within Endeavor Health. His dual role as the Wellbeing Support Advisor and System R.I.S.E. Clinical Coordinator showcases his commitment to fostering resilience and creating a supportive culture within the organization.

With his educational background in Social Work, Kyle brings a comprehensive understanding of human behavior and mental health to his role. His clinical experience across different age groups and symptomatology provides him with a nuanced perspective on addressing the diverse needs of individuals. Kyle’s focus on supporting medical professionals is especially impactful, given his firsthand experience in Family Medicine Residency programs support Behavioral Health Education. He recognizes the unique challenges individuals are faced with daily and advocates for the importance of stress management and resilience techniques in mitigating the impact of trauma.

By drawing from his expertise in trauma and emphasizing the importance of holistic wellbeing, Kyle empowers individuals to navigate challenges effectively. His efforts not only benefit the individuals he directly supports but also contribute to creating a culture of support and resilience within Endeavor Health.

Additional Resources

Special Thank You

The Park District of Highland Park is thrilled to announce plans for a new indoor sports facility dedicated exclusively to pickleball and padel on Skokie Valley Road.

The existing site for the new facility is a collaboration between the Park District of Highland Park and City of Highland Park, in which the city owns the land, and the Park District manages all operations at the site through a 99-year Lease Agreement.    An existing air supported dome owned by a third-party (Grantee) is permitted to rent space for indoor recreation uses such as soccer, lacrosse, and other similar sports consistent with the terms of a Concession and Site Agreement.  With anticipation of the Agreement expiring in April 2024, the Park District released a request for proposals for a new long-term agreement that would meet the needs of the community.

Although the Park District did not receive a proposal from the current Grantee, a promising proposal submitted by the Saslow Family included a generous donation dedicated for the construction of a new pickleball and padel facility.  In December 2023 the Park Board approved a Donor Agreement with the Saslow Family, which was recently followed with approval to purchase a new air supported dome and begin design for a state-of-the-art facility tailored for these rapidly growing sports. The new facility plan features 10 pickleball courts, 4 padel courts, café, pro shop, and restrooms.

 “As we begin planning for this outstanding indoor facility, I am filled with immense pride and excitement for the future of pickleball and padel in Highland Park,” said Ron Saslow. “This project embodies a commitment to fostering an active and connected community. I can’t wait to see our residents come together, engaging in these dynamic sports throughout the year, regardless of the weather.”

The project is estimated to cost approximately $4.2 million, including the purchase and installation of the dome, along with the construction of the courts and additional amenities. A considerable portion of the funding comes from the Saslow family’s generous donation, with further financial support being sought through the Parks Foundation of Highland Park.

Nick Baird, Director of Recreation at the Park District, highlighted the alignment of this project with broader community objectives. “Converting the old structure into a vibrant, year-round facility aligns with our goals for the site, and expands our recreational offerings in the community,” Baird noted. The Park District is actively working to relocate the few existing sports programs that currently use the old dome.

Brian Romes, Executive Director of the Park District, also commented on the community’s demand for indoor courts. “We consistently hear from our community members about the need for indoor pickleball courts. With this new facility, we’re responding to that demand and enhancing our recreational landscape,” Romes said.

The Park District aims to open the new paddle facility in the winter of 2024-2025, with plans to finalize the purchase of the dome soon and complete installation by the end of 2024. Community members and businesses interested in contributing to the project can find more details and sponsorship opportunities on the Parks Foundation website at pfhpil.org.

The world can feel so isolating nowadays. Everyone is always on their phone. Working remotely. Everything, down to groceries, is delivered right to our doorstep. What does that mean for our mental well-being?

Humans are social creatures by nature, and social connectedness is crucial to our mental and physical health. Studies going back more than 20 years have shown the positive effects of being connected to a community of any size, and how that results in living a longer, happier life.

And yet, loneliness and social isolation are on the rise.

According to an AARP Research study: “About one-third of U.S. adults age 45 and older report feeling lonely — and the number is growing.” 1 The same study shows that just getting to know one’s neighbors can help reduce loneliness: Nearly twice as many midlife and older adults who have never spoken to their neighbors reported feeling lonely.

So, where can you organically meet people in your community?

Well, as we say: in a park, of course.

The Park District is, in many ways, the beating heart of a community. It’s where connections are formed. We have Park District classes, programs, and events designed to bring people together and form a community no matter what your age or interest. Our after-school programs are a great way that kids from twos to teens meet up and make friends who enjoy the same fun activities, from archery to computer coding to stories around a campfire. Our summer camps offer dozens of ways for kids and teens to connect and bond over sports, nature, gymnastics, art, music, theater, and dance. Each of these camps is a community: a safe space for kids to learn, grow, and create those lifelong friendships. Many of our campers stay with us for years, take their life skills back into their schools, and continue on with us as counselors. It’s an important way that our Park District community grows.

When it comes to fostering friendships, our programs are a great place to start. But these social connections don’t just form in a class that you register for. It’s a group of moms chatting in the hallway as they pick up their children from ParkSchool. Or the parents who end up spending every weekend together watching their kids play baseball. The dog owners who strike up a conversation at the dog park. These spontaneous, organic moments of connection are the true magic of the park district. Down the hall, on the trail, or in the park, there might be a stranger who, in a matter of time, will become a lifelong friend.

1 Loneliness and Social Connections: A National Survey of Adults 45 and Older

Over the next two weeks, high school environmental science students will assist our natural areas department in releasing fish into our ravine streams.  The annual release is part of our partnership with the Trout in the Classroom project, allowing students to raise rainbow trout in their classroom and then release the fish into Lake Michigan. We hope that these fish will return in a few years to spawn in our ravines. If they do, that will indicate that the ravines are a healthy habitat for local wildlife. 

The fish release is just one of the many responsibilities of the Park District Natural Areas Department. They manage more than 350 acres of prairie, woodlands, ravines, and wetlands, providing residents with more than just open space.  They are places for wonder, learning and emerging science. Few towns host ten distinct natural habitats, ranging from the cool-water ravines of the Lake Michigan shore to rare Northern Flatwood communities to the Sedge Meadows of Skokie Valley, each with its distinct community of wildflowers, wildlife, trees and shrubs.  In community parks such as Fink and Cunniff, we use native plants in rain gardens, on shorelines, and in ponds to provide beauty, help manage flooding, and control erosion.  The Natural Areas team is also an active participant in Great Lakes research projects with scientists from the Shedd Aquarium and work with Highland Park High School and District 112. Students visit our ravine streams to learn about watershed ecology, water monitoring practices, macroinvertebrates, and fish studies. Our outreach programs foster a sense of stewardship for our natural areas, ravines, and lake in our community.  

Learn more about our Natural Areas Department.

‘The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.’ –Pablo Picasso

‘It takes a big heart to help shape little minds.’–Unknown

Ginny Schwalbach has been the heart and soul of the Early Childhood programs at the Park District of Highland Park for 39 years. It’s been an extraordinary career. One that had a modest start. One that has produced monumental changes along the way. Ginny is retiring this June, and we already know things will never be quite the same in the classrooms and the halls at West Ridge Center. As you can imagine, the stories from a career that spans generations could fill a book. We hope she writes one! For now, we’ll do our best to tell you a bit about how the wonderful Miss Ginny has enriched the lives of thousands of Highland Park families and kids, and touched all of us who have worked with her.

A briefcase and a suit just didn’t suit her.

In 1985, Ginny was a successful businesswoman, with a degree in Finance (and a minor in Child Psychology that would shortly become invaluable), who had worked for the past year as the branch manager of a bank in the suburbs. “I didn’t like one second of it,” she said, matter of factly. And now, she and her husband had a 1-year-old son who she wanted to spend time with more than almost anything. “I opened the Highland Park Review one day and saw an ad in big, bold letters: ‘Bring Your Child, Come to Work With Us’.” That might be the best ad the Park District has ever run. She “answered the ad” (what a lovely, quaint phrase), and was hired as a babysitter. “My son came to work with me every day, we had friends, we played. I got paid to do that. It was perfect!” When her daughter was born, she also came to work with Ginny every day. “I stayed with the program, and she was able to grow at the Park District.”

When her son was 4 or 5, Ginny said to her boss, “My son loves the sports and athletics programs here, but he would really love science and dinosaurs and volcanoes and explosions, too.” Don Kappal said simply: “Do a write-up for the brochure.” She remembers, “I wasn’t really thinking it would be me who would teach the class!” Happily, for her and for us, the proposal was accepted. “The concept of something academic just took off immediately,” she said, and it’s been going strong ever since. Many of you got to know her when you were a kid in that class. Curiosity Club was the first one she developed. Somewhere along the way she became Miss Ginny. And we became a better Park District.

Everything Grows and Grows

One class expanded to other classes, with more wonderful teachers. “It all came together. My kids could be with me, I was working in the town I grew up in, and I loved what I was doing.”

Miss Ginny taught 2-year, 3-year, and 4-year-old classes – all individual classes – but the bulk of what she did was Kindergarten. Back then, the Highland Park schools only offered half-day Kindergarten, so kids came to the park district’s enrichment programs in the morning, went to Kindergarten in the afternoon, and vice versa. The most popular class was Curiosity Club, where

every week had a different Science theme. Then she developed Number Nonsense, another academically based class, but with a Math theme. “The kids earned Crazy Cash during class, and could then go ‘shopping’ in the little toy store we had.” These days, her students don’t know as much about cash and cash registers. They do know about Gift Cards! “It’s their thing, now.”

In 2016, Highland Park schools finally offered full-day Kindergarten, which was a game-changer for the park district. Half-day Kindergarten was no longer the answer for parents, and Ginny knew she had to reinvent the program. “We had great teachers who were well established in their 2, 3, and 4-year-old classes. I certainly didn’t want to change that structure or infringe on what they all were doing so well.” There was, however, an important area the district was not fully addressing. Ginny moved into after-school programming and created another sensational class: Invention Convention. Amanda Geoffrion, the district’s Recreation Supervisor-Early Childhood Enrichment, wrote recently, “Creating, developing, and nurturing new programs to meet the needs of our community and serve our youngest population is work that has fueled Ginny and continues to energize her to this day.” That’s certainly true. It’s a very special person who shows up to work every day for 39 years with the same vigor and ambition as when they started.

Things Change. Things Stay the Same.

We asked Miss Ginny about the changes in education that she’s seen and been part of for almost 4 decades. Technology? “The age groups we teach are not really involved with technology as much as you might think. They are not on screens, and parents are happy about that.” What still works? “Getting down on the floor and interacting with students, and reading books face-to-face is still the best. It makes a huge difference.” Favorite teaching tools? “Building blocks! Kids still love them. And we brought out Legos for the first time during President’s Week. Boys and girls sat together at tables and worked on creating their own flags.” You could tell how excited they were just by listening to her tell the story. We love that about Miss Ginny. Everyone does. Of course as teachers, Ginny and her colleagues use technology to prepare lessons. It’s one of the positive changes tech has made in the profession And now, in addition to sending home a paper each day with an explanation of what the students did in class, every afternoon the teachers send parents a set of pictures of what happened during the day. “It’s wonderful. Kids and parents look forward to it, and we use that as a springboard for conversations at home, because that’s where so much education takes place.”

The fall of 2019 brought another significant change to the education program at the park district, when the district’s Recreation Department opened ParkSchool. It was designed to be a preschool program and all of the teachers focused on their age groups. There were classes for ages 2, 2 turning 3, and 3 turning 4. Miss Ginny took on the 4 turning 5 group. Kids who would be entering Kindergarten the next fall. At ParkSchool, the curriculum is designed so that all ages do the same theme every week, with different class projects that are appropriate for each age group. The teachers all work together instead of doing separate weekly themes. The concept was, and has been, a tremendous success.

And Then — January 2020.

Individual classes had been going well. ParkSchool was running smoothly. While the kids are very young, the teachers have been there for a long time and are all seasoned pros. Which made a world of difference in 2020 and 2021 during the height of the pandemic. When everything changed outside, ParkSchool kept going. Parents appreciated it. Kids benefitted greatly by being with their friends and the teachers they trusted. Ginny explained, “Teachers understand that when children are with us during the school day, we are the most important person in their world because we’re taking care of these human beings. We know that we’re part of the family conversation at the dinner table. We’re mindful of that every day. It informs how we talk to the students and how we interact with them.” Julie Nichols, the district’s Recreation Program Manager, has an interesting, inciteful take on the importance of teachers: “The preschool parents we have today have never parented when they were not in a crisis. They’ve lived from one crisis to the next.” It’s true. They don’t know what it’s like to be a parent when the world was beautiful, and a simpler place. Ginny added, “It makes me a little sad, but also makes me more aware of just how important it is that parents trust us.” We know they do.

Learning to create that trust goes back to a much earlier program that Ginny created called Me and My Pals, for 2-year-olds coming to a class without their parent. It was a big transition for the children—and their parents. “It was like baptism by fire. I learned about separation anxiety, and how much I wasn’t just an instructor for the children, but for the family as well.” For many parents, this was the first time they were dropping their children off. Once she had the trust of the parents the kids followed suit, “because the kids would think mom & dad are bringing me here, so they must feel good about it.” Remember that minor in Child Psychology? So much more important than a briefcase. During that time, kids could only come for one class a week, and there were years when Ginny had as many as 180 families enrolled. She taught up to 12 classes each week, and while it was a lot of work, “I just loved it!” Decades later, thousands of kids and families remember how much they loved it, too.

Talking about this final academic school year, Ginny says “I’m excited to come to work every day. While I’m driving in I’m thinking ‘I can’t wait to do this project, and to try this with the kids.” She’s a bit surprised by that, but if you’re one of the lucky ones who has found their true calling, you know how it feels. “I get to come to work at a park every day. There are deer walking around!” You can hear the smile in her voice. Then she added, “The foundation of this building is the people who work here. I love these people, and I’m proud to say I’m part of this organization.”

Miss Ginny, you’re the cornerstone of this building. This organization. Our education programs. We stand on your shoulders, and we know we’re better because of you. Amanda wrote a lovely toast; “All of us here at the park district, and everyone in the Highland Park community wishes Ginny a well-deserved retirement filled with joy, more time with her growing grandchildren and family, and new adventures!”

All together now: When I say Mighty you say: Oaks! Mighty: Oaks!, Mighty: Oaks! A big strong tree, Mighty like ME!