Local leaders, residents and community members commemorated the grand re-opening of Firefighters Park Aug. 14 during Party in the Park.
The event was made possible thanks, in part, to the Lincolnway Special Recreation Association.
“What we do is we go out to the park and we throw a park party,” said Karyn Reczek, marketing outreach and fundraising coordinator for LWSRA. “We bring a bounce house; we bring popcorn; we bring lemonade; we have a DJ; we’ll play some games; we’ll do a hula-hoop contest; [we’ll] award some prizes. For us, it’s all about awareness. We just want to tell the communities that we’re in who Lincolnway Special Recreation is, so that they can tell the people that they know with special needs who we are and have them come if they’re interested our programs.”
The New Lenox Community Park District is one of six member districts that belong to the Lincolnway Special Recreation Association.
Reczek said LWSRA uses Party in the Park to help communicate to residents the role they play in supporting individuals with special needs through special recreation programming, as well as vying for park enhancements.
“[Firefighters Park] is handicap accessible, which makes this a perfect location for our Party in the Park,” she said.
Firefighters Park, formerly known as Greenbriar Park, served as one of the Village’s 12 original parks for people to enjoy. The New Lenox park received improvements last year to address concerns for flooding and safety, and they were completed in June 2016.
“There was a composite structure that had climbers and slides and overhead and different features, and it was 23 years old,” said George Travnicek, director of parks and recreations for New Lenox Community Park District. “If you can get 15 years out of a playground, normally they say that’s good. So, that was well-served. … When we had to take that one out because of safety and we could no longer get the parts, we were void of a playground [and] of a really nice composite structure.”
The site of the new playground replaces a composite structure that was donated by the Lions Club in 1994 and includes board and play surfacing, swings, play apparatus, turf and the firefighter theme. Other changes include new walks and ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards, concrete curbing, 12 mature trees, enclosures and fencing.
The New Lenox Community Park District had allotted approximately $320,000 out of the parks and recreation fund to pay for Firefighters Park improvements.
Travnicek said the upgrades have received nothing but positive feedback—whether it’s from kids, the New Lenox Fire Protection District or Mayor Tim Baldermann.
“This [section of the park] is sort of unique that this was always a low area that always wanted to flood, and then always wanted to hold water,” Travnicek said, referring to the new playground. “We have underground drainage that we can drain the site now. So, this was an area that we never really used because of the fact that it would always flood and hold water.”
Today, the park features several levels of elevation in which people can access the playground and other amenities.
“With some earthwork and some underground drainage, we were able to make this viable,” Travnicek said.