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Neighbors of Kane County

Get to know the St. Charles Park District

Jun 08, 2015 10:21AM ● By Neighbors Magazines

 Wikipedia sums it up pretty well: “Recreation is an activity of leisure, leisure being discretionary time. The need to do something for recreation is an essential element of human biology and psychology. Recreational activities are often done for enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure and are considered to be ‘fun.’ ” Every family household, community organization and even businesses, try to incorporate “fun,” or recreation, somewhere into their routine. Recreation is so important to the community that there is an organization whose sole purpose is to provide, foster and promote recreation: the St. Charles Park District.

Established in 1911, the St. Charles Park District has enjoyed the role providing recreation to the community. Through its unique partnership approach, the St. Charles Park District enjoys a special relationship with many community organizations. By its very definition, the word “partnership” carries with it a sense that all parties involved have each other’s best interests at heart. To better serve its constituents of all ages and abilities, the St. Charles Park District has forged such mutually beneficial associations with dozens of area organizations to provide recreational, leisure and educational opportunities that can impact nearly every aspect of life—from mental awareness and physical prowess to sensory stimulation and community vitality.

 The park district is governed by the park board, seven individuals elected at large. This board formulates and adopts policies for the operation, control, improvement and planning of the park and recreation facilities and activities within the park district. The park board also solicits community input, promotes and interprets programs to other public and government officials, and fulfills all statutory requirements as prescribed by law.

Meeting the special needs of individuals with disabilities is important to the St. Charles Park District Board. The park district will not discriminate against any eligible participant on the basis of a disabling condition. Along with other area park districts, the St. Charles Park District is a founding member of the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association (FVSRA), which provides year-round recreational programs for individuals with disabilities.

 By maintaining indoor and outdoor venues and providing additional support, the park district is able to welcome thousands of children, teens and adults to its facilities, introducing them to resources that might otherwise have been overlooked. In activities ranging from square dance to soccer, canoeing to chess, the park district offers 1,500-plus year-round, unique recreation and education programs that attract over 16,000 participants. By providing access to its ball diamonds, open play fields and multi-purpose rooms, the park district coordinates with sports and other groups that offer programs for more than 10,000 youths. Affiliations with organizations including Tri-Cities Soccer, Strikers Fox Valley Soccer Club, St. Charles Celtic Soccer, Campton United Soccer, St. Charles Boys Baseball, St. Charles Girls Softball, St. Charles Angels Fastpitch Softball, Fox Valley Rugby Club, Tri-City Youth Football, and Tri-City Cheer &Pom Association enable group participants to pursue their interests on well-maintained park district property, while management of player rosters, event schedules and other programming needs is handled by each group’s leadership staff.

 One such partner organization is the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association. According to its mission statement, the FVSRA “provides a diverse range of recreation and leisure opportunities engaging individuals with disabilities of all ages to build healthy and active lifestyles through specialized programs and inclusive support.” As a founding member of the FVSRA, the St. Charles Park District works closely with the FVSRA to mainstream participants into park district-sponsored recreation programs and activities that will increase the overall quality of life, enhance socialization and independent living skills, and improve health and physical conditioning. “These organizations allow us to do something we couldn’t do ourselves, administratively, physically or financially,” said Laura Rudow, Superintendent of Parks and Planning.

Likewise, the park district also benefits from partnering with area associations that can furnish equipment and provide expertise that supplement the park district’s own resources. The St. Charles Canoe Club, for instance, furnishes its own canoes and instructors for lessons, launching its programs from the beach at Ferson Creek Park and holding off-season meetings at Baker Community Center.

 But not every St. Charles Park District partnership involves recreational athletics or leisure activities. Some of the most educational and entertaining programs the area has to offer come via the park district’s affiliation with numerous governmental and civic agencies, from the St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau to the St. Charles Heritage Center.

Two key alliances are with the City of St. Charles and the St. Charles Community Unit School District 303. By providing sites for some of the city’s favorite events—from Scarecrow Festival to the 4th of July fireworks—the park district plays an integral part in showcasing the city’s numerous attractions, introducing visitors to local restaurants, shops and businesses while providing residents with enjoyable “staycation” options. The park district also works closely with CUSD 303 to provide a wealth of educational and curriculum enhancements, from the caring and secure before- and after-school environment of Baker Station for children in grades K through 5, to the wealth of award-winning nature program available at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center.

“These programs work well for both the park district and its associated organizations,” said Holly Cabel, Director of Parks and Recreation. “We share in the various responsibilities required to offer them but also benefit from the rewards of having so many people use our facilities. It’s a true