Since our founding in 1909, the Park District of Highland Park has been a steward of the environment.  In 1992, we were the first district in Illinois to adopt an Environmental Policy. We initiated a recycling program for facilities and parks, developed an integrated pest management program aimed at reducing use of pesticides and herbicides on playing fields and lawns, later banned smoking in District buildings and vehicles before that practice became state law, and continued to protect our natural areas through local leadership. 

Our Green Mission

The Park District is committed to helping you be green!  Our mission is twofold:

  1. To provide important information and resources regarding sustainability to make participation in a greener lifestyle simple
  2. To continue to be good stewards of the environment

Saving Water, One Drop at a Time

To enhance our community’s ecosystem health, it is our practice to reuse stormwater as an effective water conservation strategy and to mitigate the impact of flooding at every opportunity. Here are just a few examples:

The Preserve of Highland Park takes advantage of manmade and natural features to help with local flood relief – including adding capacity for flood storage. During the site’s conversion from a former golf course to a natural area, approximately 50 acres of turf grass were converted into native plantings that absorb and cleanse stormwater. More than 2,500 linear feet of pond shoreline was also restored, providing large-scale water quality benefits to the Skokie River watershed. The Preserve’s wetland plantings are estimated to help retain approximately 700,000 gallons of stormwater on site (annually).

Our commitment to water conservation extends beyond our initiatives. We’ve partnered with the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission and the City of Highland Park to develop an alternate flood storage plan. This plan addresses potential future flood storage needs and enhances the site’s natural habitat and enjoyment. If these plans move forward, we’ll continue to work in partnership to preserve the essence of our existing natural areas, public spaces, and trails.

Sunset Valley Golf Course utilizes millions of gallons of recycled stormwater from Foley’s pond to irrigate the golf course annually. The golf course does not use potable city water to irrigate the golf course, which saves us thousands of dollars.

At Heller Nature Center, a cistern holds 1,000 gallons of water. The Park District uses approximately 4,000 gallons of stormwater from the cistern annually.   

The Park District’s Natural Areas Program has installed rain gardens or naturalized areas in the following locations: Larry Fink Memorial Park, Danny Cunniff Park, Centennial Ice Arena, Sunset Woods Park, and Rosewood Park. These areas collect/retain approximately 10 acres of stormwater on site.

Deer Creek Goes Solar

In 2022, a solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant was installed at Deer Creek Racquet Club providing an estimated energy savings of $4,000 or approximately 11% per year for the Club.   The new system generates 180,000kWh annually, equivalent to powering over 17 average Illinois homes per year.  Utilizing solar also provides a clean alternative to coal.  The Deer Creek system produces 39% of the building’s energy needs substituting 245 tons of coal burned which means removing 127,000 lbs. of CO2 into the environment annually, the equivalent of planting 9,800 trees.  

Sustainable Events

We strive to use our resources wisely and become more sustainable in our day-to-day operations; we invite you to join us!  If you are interested in learning how you might be able to make your events, parties, and meetings a little greener, please check out our Sustainable Event Suggestions.

Recycle First / Trash Last

Recycling is Easy!  All kinds of plastics, glass, paper cups and cartons qualify as recyclables.  As long as a container is clean it’s likely you can recycle it.

Green Committee

In 2007, the Green Committee was formed to update the Environmental Policy and revitalize our environmental practices. The committee set four goals that guide our efforts today:

Over the past few years, we have completed several major sustainability initiatives.  Funded by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Energy audits were performed at Centennial Ice Arena, Deer Creek Racquet Club, West Ridge Center and the Recreation Center of Highland Park.   And a variety of energy-saving measures were put in place:

We recently installed energy-saving occupancy sensors in all facilities through another grant program.

Leave No Child Inside

To help reverse the growing disconnection between children and nature, the Park District of Highland Park, along with Chicago Wilderness and more than 200 organizations, are working together to promote “Leave No Child Inside.”   The movement was inspired by author Richard Louv, who in his groundbreaking 2006 book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, cited kids’ lack of direct experience with nature is largely to blame for alarming increases in obesity, attention deficit disorder, and poor social skills. With Leave No Child Inside, our goal is to promote children’s health through outdoor play and exploration and foster caring for nature and the environment in today’s children and future generations.

Heller Nature Center staff spearheads the park district Leave No Child Inside efforts to get kids to spend more time in the great outdoors.  The Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights is a list of ten activities that every child should have a right to do and the park district works to make it possible that every child has access to outdoor activities.  Almost every Heller program fulfills one or more of the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights.