After 30+ years, the time has come to say farewell to what remains of the gazebo and fishing pier at Danny Cunniff’s pond. Once grander in scale, the fishing deck’s pier was removed in an effort to prolong the gazebo’s life for a few more years. This extended lifespan has now reached its end and the Park District plans to remove what remains of the gazebo and fishing deck in the next few months. 

For any questions or comments, please contact

Tree removals to protect the Millard Park lake bluff from further erosion are scheduled to begin the week of December 5. During this time there may be construction traffic on the west access road leading to the top of the park and there may be path closures. The work is expected to take 2 to 3 weeks but will depend on suitable weather conditions to avoid damaging the sensitive lake bluff.  

When large trees fall due to storms or other natural causes, major damage can occur as they tear away soil and underlying clay.  By proactively removing at-risk trees on the slope and installing native plants and shrubs, we hope to stabilize the bluff.

For more information, contact Rebecca Grill, Natural Areas Manager, at

The fruits of your feedback have arrived!

The Park District is excited to share the final playground renovation design for Moroney’s Weil Tot Lot. Following several rounds of community engagement, the collected feedback was translated into the final equipment selection and playground layout. See updated playground design rendering here.

The Park District would also like to share the redesigned playground entrance pathway, which will be ADA accessible and ease the slope into the playground. Through community engagement, the desire for stroller parking was heard, and will be included at the entrance path. See updated entrance pathway plan here.

Next Steps: We are on track to bid out this project in December and construction is anticipated to begin in the spring.

This week, Park District crews added a layer of protective mulch around select trees in Sunset Woods Park, as a follow-up to the air spading project that addressed soil compaction. Properly applied, the mulch layer helps regulate soil temperature and moisture to promote root health.

Thank you for your continued patience as we work to ensure that the playground is safe for play. The remaining pour-in-place rubber surfacing is expected to pick back up next week. We are targeting Mid-August for full completion.

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