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Sunset Woods Park Playground Renovation & Master Planning

Sunset Woods Park serves as Highland Park’s central park, offering active and passive recreation, gathering areas, and connections to the downtown. The Park District Board has approved a planning project for the renovation of the park’s iconic Rocket Ship playground and Titanic Tides tot lot located on the western edge of the park.  The Park Board also approved development of a master plan for the entire park, ensuring that the playground renovation fits into a modern vision of Sunset Woods and the City Downtown District. 

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Project Background

On July 28, 2020, 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 construction of the new playground and tot lot will begin on August 16, 2021.

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 took advantage of playground 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 and will be considered for future years.

 

In keeping with our community engagement tradition, an essential aspect of the Sunset Woods project planning process included collaboration with residents. Throughout the past year, community members had a variety of opportunities to provide their input on the playground design and master plan. In keeping with COVID-19 DCEO guidelines, online, virtual, and in-person engagement opportunities were available to all residents.


Commemorative Bricks

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.

 

For more information, contact Mike Evans at 847.579.4085 or mevans@pdhp.org.


Project Updates

12/03/2021

Crews are taking advantage of the warmer weather and have made significant progress. Curbs continue to go in as well as stakes marking the locations for the future playground elements. With the locations marked, crews have started working on the installation of the tot lot play equipment.

11/18/2021

Though the temperatures are dropping, crews are continuing to work at Sunset Woods Park. This week, the focus is on the perimeter curbs and marking the layout of the new play equipment.

11/12/2021

The drainage connections have been installed, which concludes the drainage work at the site. This week, crews will focus on the concrete curbs and the layout of the tot lot play structure in preparation for installation.

11/05/2021

More play equipment has arrived for the new Sunset Woods Playground, including the tot lot primary play structure and vine climber. The remaining drainage connections were delivered this week and are nearly all installed. The cold weather this week delayed concrete work but the crews are hopeful that they will begin pouring the curbs early next week.

10/29/2021

Play equipment is starting to arrive! We received the acorn climber for the tot lot. Weather depending, installation of tot lot equipment is expected to begin next month. While the rain has slowed down work, Crews continue to work on formwork for curbing and rebuilding the stone seating walls. The drainage system is nearly complete; crews are waiting for a custom drainage connection to wrap up the drainage work.

10/22/2021

While the rain we’ve seen this past week has slowed down the work, crews are progressing on the framework for the concrete curbing.

10/14/2021

As work on the drainage system and grading wrap up, keep an eye out for new elements to take shape. This week crews are backfilling the trenches and finishing up installing the drainage system. Next up is the framing for the concrete curb surrounding the playgrounds.

10/7/2021

The contractor has completed the installation of the stone base and drainage pipe throughout both play areas. Next week crews will begin backfilling the trenches and framing to start the concrete perimeter curbing.

9/30/2021

Crews have laid out the drainage pipe and trenched it in preparation for the new drainage system installation. The stone base and pipes will also be installed next week.

9/24/2021

This past week, crews focused on preparing the site and underground drainage for the new playground. Rough grading and installation of the underground drainage system began as well.

9/17/2021

Demolitions and removals are nearing completion and the project site is looking more like a blank canvas ready for the new playgrounds. Next week crews will finish with demolition and removals and begin preparation for site grading and drainage.

9/2/2021

Crews continue to work on removals and demolition in preparation for the new site improvements. Towards the end of next week, crews expect to begin grading and drainage improvements on the site.

8/27/2021

The rocket ship came down this week along with the tot lot pirate ship play structure, spring toys, and swings. Next week crews will continue removal of the remaining play equipment, engineered wood fiber safety surfacing, and stone retaining walls.

8/24/2021

The playground renovations at Sunset Woods Park are well underway! Construction fencing went up last week and preliminary site work is complete. Contractors will begin demolition this week. Stay tuned for a timelapse video of the rocket ship coming down.

8/10/2021

Members of the Park Board of Commissioners with help from some playground enthusiasts broke ground on the much-anticipated new Rocket Ship and Nature-Themed playgrounds at Sunset Woods Park. 

Beginning Monday, August 16, the two playgrounds will be fenced off and crews will begin the demolition process of the existing parks. If Mother Nature cooperates, the new playgrounds will open in Spring 2022.

7/28/2021

The playground renovation construction is set to start in mid-August.

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.

Rocket Ship Playground – Ages 5-12
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.

   

Nature-Themed Playground – Ages 2-5
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.

 

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.

7/23/2021

On July 10, the Park District activated Sunset Woods Park for Unplug Illinois Day. The Planning Department joined the event as an opportunity to collect feedback for the Master Plan. We heard from neighbors and park users and continue to welcome feedback on the plan. Click the link below to see the updated Master Plan.

The Park District has been busy finalizing the playground renovation plans based on feedback from the community. Click on the link below to see updated playground plans. Bids for the construction of the playground were received on July 8 and will be presented to the Park Board on July 27 for the award. The construction is expected to begin in August 2021.

2/26/2021

On February 23, the Park Board approved a proposal to proceed with the final design and construction services for the playground renovation project. During this phase of the project, design consultants will use the playground concept plans developed with input from the community to advance the playground plans for construction. The designs developed through the final design phase will be bid for construction in late summer 2021.

The project team continues to finalize the master plan based on community input.  Once approved, the final master plan will guide future development.  The project team expects to present a final master plan document to the Park Board in the coming months.

2/16/2021

The project team has refined the plans based on your feedback.  Now is your opportunity to review the updated plans and provide additional comments.  We are accepting comments on the project through Thursday, February 18.  If you have additional questions and comments, please email aschwartz@pdhp.org.

1/27/2021

Thank you to the community members who took the time to provide valuable input on the Sunset Woods Park playground concept plan and park master plan!

We heard:

  • That many were not supportive of the proposed North Parking Lot
  • There is a high interest in a splash pad and adult fitness
  • The local tennis community values the clay courts and the bank of asphalt courts

The project team is working on refining the plan. Some updates you’ll see in the plan are:

  • Removal of the parking lot near the north pavilion
  • Retaining the clay courts and the asphalt courts
  • A splash pad near the playground

The refined master plan will be shared with the community in February.

Playground: The renovation of the playground is scheduled to start this summer. A final concept for the playground will be presented to the Park Board for approval in February.

Park Master Plan: The final park master plan recommendations are not scheduled but will guide future development.

1/11/2021

Between December 9-17, a survey was promoted to collect comments on the preliminary illustrative concept plans. The project team has aggregated the survey results, to review the results click the link below. The results from the survey and the comments received will be used to further refine the plans. The community will be given another opportunity in February to view and comment on the final designs.

12/22/2020

Thank you to everyone that participated in the survey. We heard from over 350 respondents. The project team is reviewing the results and will be sharing the highlights in the next few weeks. The results from the survey and the comments received will be used to further refine the plans. The revised plans will be shared with the community in February 2021.

12/10/2020

The preliminary concept plans are posted on the website and the virtual community meeting platform is available. Walkthrough a self-guided presentation to see the preliminary concept plans and then take the survey to share your comments. The survey will be open through December 17th.

12/8/2020

The Sunset Woods Park Playground Renovation and Master Plan project update will be presented tonight at the December 8th Park Board meeting. The presentation will include illustrative concepts developed based on community input.

The design team is now looking for feedback on these initial concepts. Your feedback will be invaluable as the team refines the plans to be presented to the Park Board in February 2021.

The survey will be open from December 9-17.

Click here for a brief self-guided presentation and for a link to the survey.

11/18/2020

The Sunset Woods Park Playground Renovation and Master Plan presentation scheduled for the November 17 Park Board Meeting and an online survey requesting community feedback expected to start on November 19 have been postponed. Due to COVID-19 emergency orders issued by Governor Pritzker and the City of Highland Park, the Park District had to refocus its attention for the November 17 Board Meeting. The project team will schedule the Sunset Woods Park Playground Renovation and Master Plan project presentation to the Park Board for a later date. The online survey will open for community comment following the Park Board presentation. The Park District will continue to post project updates on the website and will announce the adjusted timeline when available.

11/6/2020

The project team targeted presenting the Sunset Woods Park Playground Renovation and Master Plan Project draft concept plans to the Park Board on Nov 10. The presentation has been rescheduled to Nov 17 to provide the team with additional time to refine the plans.

The draft plans will include illustrations based on the feedback we heard from the community, staff, and board. These initial drafts will facilitate discussion and collect input to refine further the concept plan that will serve as the foundation for the final design; therefore, the clarity of these plans is of utmost importance. With additional design time, the project team is refining the concept drafts and coordinating with playground manufacturers to develop images to illustrate the play equipment’s conceptual vision.

10/23/2020

Thank you again for your interest in the Sunset Woods Park Playground and Master Plan project. The project team was excited to share the plans with the community at the end of this month; however, we have adjusted the schedule to allow for more design time.

Park District staff are working closely with Hitchcock Design Group to ensure that the initial plans follow the community, staff, and Park Board feedback. After further discussion with Hitchcock Design Group, the project team determined it was best to adjust the schedule to allow for more time to develop the initial plans.

Following the updated schedule, Hitchcock Design Group will present the plans at the November 10 public Park Board Meeting. Following the meeting, the plans will be available for public comment.

9/18/2020

Over the past few weeks, we have heard from many of you about your vision for Sunset Woods Playground and Park. Just over 300 people participated in a vision survey online, we spoke with participants at the open house, and patrons using the parks. We heard some creative ideas including interest in ziplines, play structures with height, and hill play. Beyond the playground, we heard an interest in park elements such as a splash pad, a wheel-friendly plaza, and fitness opportunities. The project team is busy reviewing your feedback to finalize a project program that will guide the initial schematic plans for the playground and master plan. These plans are expected to be presented to the community at the end of October. At that time, there will be opportunities to collaborate with the Project Team on the design and share your feedback. In the meantime, continue to send ideas and comments either by email to planning@pdhp.org or on the online comment card.

8/28/2020

On Wednesday The Park District hosted a Community Open House at the large open-air pavilion east of the playgrounds at Sunset Woods Park. Around twenty people stopped by and shared their input and participated in the visioning exercise presented by Hitchcock Design Group. Participants were asked to place two dots on images that best reflected their vision of the Playground and two more dots on images reflecting their vision of the park. Online and virtual opportunities to participate in the design effort are now available on the website.  The information collected during the input phase will be used to develop the initial schematic plans. In October, residents will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the initial schematic plans.

8/13/2020

We’d like to hear your thoughts and ideas on potential future development at the park as well as the playground renovation project. The first Community Open House has been scheduled for August 26th, 2020 from 430pm – 630pm at Sunset Woods Park, Large Pavilion (located in the central section of the park near the four playground areas). Stop by to share your vision for Sunset Woods Park.  The project planning staff will be available to answer your questions and collect your feedback.   Visuals and comment cards will be available. The event will be arranged for proper social distancing. Participants are required to wear face masks.

This will be the first of a series of community input opportunities.


Project Schedule

Thank you for your input! 

Between Aug 2020 and Feb 2021  over 350 community members participated in the Sunset Woods Park Playground and Master Plan concept planning effort.

Input Phase (Aug 2020 – Oct 2020)*

  • During the Fall of 2020 community members shared their vision for Sunset Woods Park and playground. These ideas informed the preliminary draft concept plans.

Schematic Design Phase (Oct 2020 – Feb 2021)*

  • The ideas gathered in the Fall of 2020 directly informed the preliminary draft concept plans. 
  • Between December 9-17, a survey was promoted to collect comments on those preliminary illustrative concept plans. Over 300 community members participated in the survey.
  • The community’s feedback was used to refine the plans further.

*Following COVID-19 DCEO guidelines, online, virtual, and in-person engagement opportunities were made available to community members throughout the Input and Schematic Design Phases.

Next Steps:

The playground renovation project is underway – follow project updates here.

The Master Plan is still in progress and the Park District continues to welcome feedback on the plan. See below for ways to share your feedback. Staff expects to present the master plan for approval to the Park Board by end of the year 2021.


For more information on the overall project schedule click here.

If you have additional comments, please email aschwartz@pdhp.org.

If you would like to receive project updates, please complete the Contact Us Form.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why is the Park District embarking on this project now?

The playground equipment is aging and in need of replacement. Planning for the playground will take approximately four months. Beginning the design for the playground now puts the Park District in the position to breakg round in 2021.

The Park Board decided to include the master planning of the park to ensure that the playground renovation fits into a modern vision for Sunset Woods. Recommendations determined through the master planning process are neither funded nor scheduled.

What is the Project Timeline?

There are three phases to the project:

  • Phase 1: Preliminary Design
  • Phase 2: Playground Final Design
  • Phase 3: Playground Construction

Phase 1: Preliminary Design (Fall/Winter 2020 – January 2021)

The Preliminary Design phase has three steps:

  • Step 1 Input: The project team will collect input from the community on their vision for an updated playground and park.
  • Step 2 Review: The design firm will take the community feedback and develop an initial concept plan draft to illustrate the feedback that was gathered during Step 1.
  • Step 3 Final Concept: The project team will gather feedback on the initial draft concept plan. That feedback will be used to refine a final concept plan.

The concept master plan will serve as a tool to guide future capital planning and support funding opportunities.

The playground concept plan developed in Phase 1 will serve as the foundation for Phase 2 playground final design.

Phase 2: Playground Final Design (Early 2021- Spring 2021)
The design team will develop detailed plans for construction. These plans will detail colors, materials, textures, dimensions, and play pieces.

Phase 3: Playground Construction (Summer – Fall 2021)
The new playground will be constructed. Once construction is completed, the new playground will be open to the community.

What is a concept plan?

A concept plan illustrates a broad vision to garner support and consensus before proceeding into final design phases. Concept plans are typically less detailed than a final design. In this case, specific elements, colors, textures, materials will be determined in final design.

What is a master plan?

A master plan is a comprehensive plan with long-range goals. A Sunset Woods Park Master Plan will consider the entire Park, connectivity, recreation amenities, and how these amenities serve the Highland Park community and how the Park fits into the Downtown. The final master plan will provide a layout to guide future development and improvements at the park. The recommendations in the master plan will be developed in collaboration with the community. See the participate in the vision tab to see opportunities to participate in the planning.

How will the master plan be used?

The master plan will inform future development at the park. Projects recommended in the master plan will be considered during future year budgeting. With the plan, the Park District can begin to apply for funding opportunities such as the Open Space and Land Acquisition and Development Grant Program offered by the State of Illinois.

What is the difference between the playground project and the master plan?

The playground renovation project’s objective is to replace two of the playgrounds at Sunset Woods, the Rocket Ship playground, and Titanic Tides Tot Lot. The master plan aims to evaluate the park holistically and recommend improvements to the park to serve the community better. The playground -construction is scheduled for 2021.  The master plan project recommendations are currently unbudgeted.

Can I sign up to get periodic project updates?

Yes, please fill out the contact us form or email aschwartz@pdhp.org and include your name and email address.

When will the playground be renovated?

Renovation of the playground is expected to break ground in Spring 2021.

When will the playground be closed to the public?

The playground will be closed during construction, which is scheduled to begin in August 2021. Construction will continue through end of the year 2021 and, depending on weather, the playground may continue to remain closed for construction through Spring 2022. The Tree Adventure Playground (east of the playgrounds under construction) will remain open through construction.

Which playgrounds are going to be renovated?

The Titanic Tides Tot Lot and the 21st Century Playground are located on the eastern edge of the park.

Is the Park District taking away any elements in the park as part of this project?

No. The playground project will replace a tot lot and an elementary playground with new equipment for both age groups.

The Master Plan may recommend removal or replacement of amenities within the park, but at this time the District has no plans to remove any amenities at the park.

Complete this form if you would like to receive project updates or if you have any questions.

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