The playground is full of color with the installation of the pour in place rubber surfacing currently underway. Construction crews continue wrapping up the playground equipment installation. The equipment is nearly 100% complete with a few minor pieces remaining for the rocket ship and the wavy net climber. Also this week, crews will be pouring concrete at the playground entry points and installing site furniture and landscaping. Inspections are scheduled and the team expects the playground to be open by July 13.

Why are the new playgrounds not open?

We are all disappointed that the new playgrounds are not yet open. Our crews have been working hard to keep the project moving, but unforeseen challenges and setbacks have impacted the overall schedule.

It’s apple blossom season at The Preserve! Providing early blooming flowers is key to helping pollinators get through the lean months of spring. Five varieties of apple trees in the Pollinator Garden give honeybees a welcome boost.

At the April 27 meeting, the Park Board approved construction of Phase 1 of the Park Avenue Breakwater Project in the amount of $2,221,890.  The base scope of this project includes removal of the existing barge breakwater and boat ramp, stockpiling and salvaging existing breakwater fill and armor stone, construction of a new steel sheet pile breakwater with a concrete crown wall and construction of a new concrete boat launch.   Funding for the project includes $2,000,000 from the Park District’s capital fund and $400,000 from the Parks Foundation of Highland Park, made possible from community donations. Construction begins this Fall.

Capital Budgeted 2022$2,000,000
Donations (approximate as of 4/27/22)$400,000
Lakes & Rivers Construction Total Base Bid with Value Engineering($2,221,890)
5% Contingency($110,000)
SmithGroup Construction Phase Service($68,000)
Anticipated Amount Under Budget$110

Phase 2 of the Breakwater Project is construction of ancillary items that support safe use of the boat ramp including an ADA accessible floating dock, safety bollards and lighting.  This phase is currently not funded and is estimated to cost $280,000.  The Park District has applied for a Boat Access Area Development Grant through IDNR for $200,000.  If the Park District is awarded this grant, additional funds will be needed to complete the project.  If the Park District is not awarded the grant, portions of Phase 2 will be delayed until funding has been secured.  In this instance, an estimated $180,000 will be needed to complete necessary portions of Phase 2.  The Park District will likely seek construction bids for Phase 2 in December 2022 for construction to be completed by Memorial Day Weekend 2023. 

At the July 27 Board Meeting, the Park Board approved the Sunset Woods Park Playground Renovation construction contracts. Construction is set to begin mid-August for the grand opening in Spring 2022 (weather dependent). 

Check out the renderings of the new playground below.  To learn more about the project, click here.

2-5 Age Group Play Area — Nature Theme

The Nature-Themed playground honors the natural beauty at Sunset Woods Park by resembling a forest floor to facilitate imaginative play. Kids can run through a fallen acorn, balance on the vines, climb log steppers, engage with the worm talk tubes, or interact with the sand at the sand play table. The primary play structure includes opportunities for climbing, sliding, crawling, and sensory play. The playful rubber surface design also offers an opportunity for imaginative play with lily pods and a river pattern. The variety of swings between the two play areas welcome all ages and abilities including belt swings, tot swing, ADA, and an expression swing for an adult to swing together with a child.

5-12 Age Group Play Area — Rocketship/Space Theme

The new Rocket Ship playground will feature a primary rocket with a connecting launch tower. Kids will have a variety of ways to climb up the tower, making each visit unique and challenging including a rope climber, a crawl tube connecting one platform to the next, a net climber, and finally a ladder to the nose cone of the rocket where kids can view out from the 25’ high platform. Easy access stairs and climbers are also available through the tower. Kids can pretend they are part of a real launch at mission control and the command center, spin on the loading zone spinner, and move between the launch tower and rocket on the accessible bridge link. Surrounding the rocket ship, kids can play on the sun spinner, group swing, run up and slide down the rubberized embankment amongst the planets or climb on the “galaxy” net climber. All these pieces are mounted on rubberized surfaces with a design that transports you to outer space while making the entire playground accessible.

Playground Seating Plaza

The site amenities including a central seating plaza, benches, seating wall, walkway, and picnic tables make this an engaging and playful destination for families.

Looking for a meaningful way to commemorate a special event or memorialize a loved one and give back to your community? Purchase a $200 engraved brick with a message of your choice to help the Parks Foundation of Highland Park raise funds to build a playground seating plaza between the new Rocket Ship and Nature-Themed playgrounds!  

Your 4”x 8” brick engraved message includes a maximum of three lines and up to 13 characters per line, including spaces and punctuation.

With the warm Spring weather, progress is being made at The Preserve of Highland Park.  Grading and initial planting around the North Pond shoreline are complete. Work has begun on the Connector Trail that will link The Preserve property on both sides of the Skokie River. Overlooks for the North Pond and Gateway Path (on the west side of the river) have been manufactured (off-site) and will be delivered for installation soon.  Stay tuned for more updates as construction continues!

Located adjacent to the Recreation Center of Highland Park (1207 Park Ave W), this 100-acre property is being transformed into a one-of-a-kind natural area for passive recreation.  When completed, The Preserve will include green lawns, natural play areas, nature gardens, restored woodlands, and walking and biking trails that connect neighborhoods, downtown Highland Park, and regional biking trails.   

Funding for The Preserve project was provided in part by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act and Illinois Department of Natural Resources OSLAD funds.

The Preserve of Highland Park construction is expected to begin November 1, 2020!   When completed, The Preserve’s amenities will include improved pathways, a pond overlook, gardens, seating, play areas, signage and a restored north pond shoreline with native plantings and vegetated swales.  During construction, some paths will be closed.  Several looping trails will remain open to visitors, as will the North-South Bike Trail on the property’s east edge.

To learn more about this exciting project, click here

On September 22, the development of The Preserve of Highland Park took a significant step forward as the Park District of Highland Park Board of Commissioners awarded a construction contract for $1,204,290 to Team REIL Inc. of Union IL, following a competitive bid process.  Construction is scheduled to begin in October.

Among the amenities planned are a pond overlook, gardens, seating areas, play areas, and signage.   New and improved pathways will be installed to lead visitors smoothly through green lawns, wet meadows, short grass prairie habitat, and restored woodlands.  Existing pathways already connect the community to the Recreation Center, the Golf Learning Center, Skokie River Woods, and links to neighborhoods and downtown Highland Park. 

 Earlier this year, the Park District received a $400,000 Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources that will be used for trail development, park amenities, landscaping, and signage at The Preserve. 

The Park District also received a $144,672 grant for shoreline restoration of the North Pond and enhanced plantings for swales on the property made available through the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission.  Funding for this portion of the project is provided, in part, by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.

 In 2018, through intergovernmental cooperation with the City of Highland Park, the Park District took ownership of the 100-acre property and began transitioning it into a passive recreational open space.  The project was an initiative of the GreenPrint 2024master plan and meets the Highland Park community’s desire for additional outdoor and passive recreation opportunities. 

 For more information on the project, click here.

Funding for this project is provided in part by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.

The Park District Board of Commissioners approved design services to renovate the Sunset Woods Park’s iconic Rocket Ship playground and Titanic Tides tot lot located on the western edge of the park. The Park District is committed to taking care of park properties and is now proceeding with the design phase of replacing the playground equipment, which is approaching its useful life. The planning project kicks-off this summer.

Sunset Woods Park serves as Highland Park’s central park, offering active and passive recreation, gathering areas, and connections to the downtown. The Park Board is also taking advantage of playground design services by approving design services to develop a site master plan for the entire park. This plan will ensure that the playground renovation fits into a modern vision of Sunset Woods Park for the whole community to enjoy. This site master plan was a recommendation in the Park District’s GreenPrint 2024 comprehensive plan.

Construction of the new playground and tot lot is anticipated to occur in 2021. All other park improvements identified in the Sunset Park master plan will be considered for future years.

In keeping with our community engagement tradition, an essential aspect of the Sunset Woods project planning process will be a collaboration with residents. Over the next few months, community members will have a variety of opportunities to provide their input on the playground design and the vision for Sunset Woods. In keeping with COVID-19 DCEO guidelines, online, virtual, and in-person engagement opportunities will be available to all residents.

As the project progresses, updates and ways to participate will be posted to a Sunset Woods Park project page on the Park District website.

Construction is underway at Sunset Valley Golf Club for the new Youth Golf Development Center.  Over $200,000 in donations were raised by the Parks Foundation of Highland Park since 2018 to cover the design and construction costs of this state-of-the-art facility.  The new Center will feature:

The new Center will be located adjacent to the Sunset Valley Golf course.  It will be used primarily for short game youth golf instruction by the Sunset Valley professional staff and for practice by Sunset Valley golfers when not in use for teaching.  The projected opening for the new Center is Spring 2021. 

Project Overview

The Sunset Valley Youth Golf Development Center is the Parks Foundation of Highland Park’s first capital project since its founding in 2016. The Parks Foundation spearheaded several fundraising initiatives for the Center and also received a significant donation from Highland Park resident and Illinois Amateur Golf Hall of Famer Joel Hirsch as well as a $50,000 grant from the Wadsworth Foundation to fund the project.


Sunset Valley’s new state-of-the-art Center will be a welcoming high-quality environment where young people can learn discipline, fairness, and patience by practicing the game of golf. There is no better place for young golfers to discover the social and cultural lessons of golf than to be part of the experience. At the new Center, young players will have the opportunity to learn and improve their game and sports etiquette within the broader environment of the award-winning Sunset Valley Golf Course among seasoned players and professionals.

The Center will be located on an approximately one-acre plot of land adjacent to the new Sunset Valley golf course. It is intended to carry on the club’s tradition of being the primary community center for future generations to learn and love the game.  This unique facility, typically only seen at private clubs and learning centers, will be Highland Park’s and the surrounding communities’ primary Center for youth golf instruction and skill development in the fundamentals of the short game –the most critical golf skills.

Young golfers will be able to practice shots up to 50 yards from fairways, rough areas and bunkers with the feel and aesthetic of a real golf course. Hitting bases for long shot practice will also be featured at the Center. When not used for its primary purpose: youth golf instruction, the Center will also serve as a practice facility for all Sunset Valley’s golfers.  Group and private lessons, as well as summer camps, will take place at the Center. The Highland Park High School Girls and Boys Golf Teams, IJGA tournament players, PGA Junior Leagues, and Sunset Valley players will also have access to the Center when not used for instruction. Sunset Valley is a participating course of the CDGA “Youth on Course” program and the club’s “Kids Play Free after 5 pm with a paid adult” program ensuring the new Youth Development Center will be fully utilized throughout each golf season.

For 100 years, Sunset Valley Golf Course has been a valued part of the Highland Park community. Generations of residents learned to play golf at Sunset, including Illinois Amateur Hall of Famer Joel Hirsch and newcomer to the PGA tour Patrick Flavin. The course is also home to the high school golf teams. In August 2018, the Park District of Highland Park reopened Sunset, following an extensive $7 million renovation that took 18 months. The new Sunset Valley accommodates every level of golfer. It is an open British Heathlands course design that reflects the character and aesthetics of a 1920’s era golf course. The project included the renovation of all tees, fairways, greens, bunkers, and infrastructure, drainage, and storm water management.

The Parks Foundation of Highland Park is dedicated to the belief that every resident deserves the opportunity for an enriched, healthy lifestyle. The Foundation supports and enhances the Park District of Highland Park’s exceptional facilities and provides resources to ensure that all community members are able to participate in Park District programs. The Parks Foundation of Highland Park is an independent, community-led, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information, visit

Photograph:   (front row, left to right) Highland Park High School Golf Team players:  Emilia Schwank, Ally Kovitz, Ben Shanberg, David Aloush.  (second row, left to right) Ryan Ochs, general manager of Sunset Valley Golf Club; Brian Romes, executive director of the Park District of Highland Park; Rick Jacobson, president of Jacobson Golf Course Design; Joel Hirsch, Illinois Amateur Golf Hall of Famer; Bob Bernstein, president of the Parks Foundation of Highland Park; Brian Kaplan, commissioner of the Park District of Highland Park; Greg Korneta, project manager from Wadsworth Golf Construction; Cole Sangern, facility supervisor for the Sunset Valley Golf Club; Paul Harris, head varsity golf coach from Highland Park High School.  

This summer, the Park District will replace the Centennial Ice Arena compressor system. The compressor system makes and maintains the ice rink. The replacement of the compressor is prompted by the discontinuation of the R-22 refrigerant that is used by the current compressor system.

The current system was installed when the building was first built in 1972.  The typical life expectancy of a rink refrigeration system is 20 years. The refrigerant that the existing system uses is typical to ice rinks but has since been categorized as an ozone-depleting substance by the US Environmental Protection Agency and is being phased out. In 2020, the R-22 coolant is no longer being produced.

The $1.8M system upgrade will take advantage of the latest advancements in efficiency, operability and sustainability by leveraging the Official Refrigerant Solution of the NHL® and direct digital controls infrastructure.  The upgraded system will also use 40% less water.   

The ice rink will be down during the replacement. Construction begins Monday, May 18. The new system will be operational the first week of September.

Centennial Ice Arena is currently closed as a result of the Covid-19 closures, and therefore the construction will not impact any programs or activities at this time.

Construction will primarily be limited to the interior of the building and is not expected to impact the neighborhood.

Please contact with any questions about the project.