History of Itasca Park District
The 1960s: Parks & Open Space
In 1964, a group of citizens initiated a petition to form the Itasca Park District. The referendum passed on July 25, 1964. Initially, the Itasca Park District Board, consisting of five members, sought to purchase land for parks and open space. In 1965, the district obtained land for what is now Washington Park at the center of the community. That site now holds 3 ball fields, 2 playgrounds, and the 43,000 square foot Itasca Recreation and Fitness Center. Recreation programs and events began in 1966 when the first part-time director was hired. Peacock Park was also acquired in 1966.
In 1970, a referendum was passed to build the Itasca Pool, which was completed in 1971. In 1972, the Itasca Recreation Center was built. Throughout the 1970s, the District acquired Benson and Franzen parks, and worked to develop these into ball fields and playgrounds. In 1979, the District received a grant to develop the Spring Brook Nature Center, a 61-acre area on the west edge of the community. Working cooperatively with the Village of Itasca and School District 10, the Nature Center became a focal point of the community, with a nature center building and the hiring of its first naturalist. The Spring Brook Nature Center has been the recipient of several state awards over the years.
The 1980s saw the renovation of the Itasca Pool into the Itasca Waterpark, with a 180-foot water slide, sand play areas, sun bathing hill, and sand volleyball. In addition, Clayson and Schiller Parks and the Ray Franzen Bird Sanctuary were developed.
In 1991, a 30,000 square foot addition was built onto the Itasca Recreation Center, containing a fitness center, classrooms, larger gymnasium, gymnastics area, offices, and multi-purpose rooms. Attendance in programs and special events grew rapidly during the 1990s. In 1991, the District obtained the Itasca Depot Museum, the original train station of Itasca. The District maintains the operations of the museum with a part-time curator. Country Club Park was also established in 1991.
The Itasca Softball Complex was created on land adjacent to the Ray Franzen Bird Sanctuary on Rohlwing Road in 1993. The complex has 2 lighted ball fields. A maintenance, bathroom, and concessions building was added in 2002.
In 2000, the Itasca Waterpark was renovated, with the addition of a 5,000 square foot Caribbean-themed zero-depth pool play area, many water play features, and water slides. In 2001, the Waterpark won both the Illinois Park and Recreation Association Facility of the Year award, and the National Recreation and Park Association Aquatic Facility of the Year award.
In 2002, a new 10,000 square foot addition was built at the Recreation Center. The addition included an expanded fitness center, lobby, and classrooms. In 2003, with the assistance of the Village of Itasca, the Waterpark bathhouse was renovated to meet ADA compliance and add a family changing area.
The Itasca Park District was awarded the 2003 National Gold Medal Grand Award for Class V (Population under 20,000) in St. Louis Missouri from the National Recreation and Parks Association.
In March 2006, a $3.65 million referendum passed to replace the main pool at the Waterpark and other necessary capital projects throughout the park district.
In 2007 the Itasca Park District was awarded an OSLAD (Open Space Land Acquisition Development) matching grant in the amount of a $329,700 from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for the renovation of the Franzen “Play for All” Community Park.
Franzen Play-for-All Park was the first handicapped accessible park in DuPage County. Two 35 year-old tennis courts were removed from the corner of Bryn Mawr and Catalpa and replaced north of Franzen School on Catalpa to beautify and revitalize the area. A new completely ADA accessible playground replaced the outdated one that was built in 1990. The playground layout was been created with the purpose of retaining a 100+ year-old Silver Maple tree that is the focal point of the park. Two half-court basketball courts were added, as well as a picnic shelter, water fountain and a 1/4 mile walking / jogging path. The ball field was also upgraded.
The project budget for the new park was $659,400. The State of Illinois reimbursed $329,700. The remaining matching funds were raised in a cooperative effort between the Itasca Park District, School District #10 and an Itasca Bank and Trust led community fundraiser. Construction was completed in September 2007.
In October 2009 the Itasca Park District won a second National Recreation and Parks Association Gold Medal Grand Award for top Park District in the nation with a population under 20,000.
In 2012 Benson Park was renovated. The parking lot, playground, picnic shelter and tennis courts were replaced. Garden plots were relocated and a concrete pathway was created to reach the plots.
From 2011 to 2013 the Itasca Historical Depot Museum (original 1873 Itasca Train Depot) was restored to its original look. In 2012 a joint project between the park district and Village of Itasca added a 20-car parking lot, picnic gazebo and concrete pathways on the site.
The park district acquired a 1939 Milwaukee Road Rid-Side Caboose and it was relocated and restored. The Itasca Historical Depot Museum and Caboose opened in September 2013.
Redesign of the Itasca Recreation & Fitness Center
Universal Design Concepts were used to update the entrance, program spaces and washrooms to provide accessibility for all. The project cost was $800,000.
Peacock Park Renovation
Itasca won a $396,200 Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) Grant to renovate Peacock Park. This grant will fun 50% of the $792,400 project which began in Summer 2014. Improvements include:
- 2 half-court basketball courts
- Baggo and bocce courts
- Baseball field
- Drinking fountain
- Landscape improvements
- Loop trail
- Picnic shelter
- Skate nodes
- Soccer field
- Volleyball court
Springbrook Nature Center Renovation
An Illinois Department of Natural Resources Capital Museum Grant was awarded to the Itasca Park District in the amount of $335,000 for renovation of the Springbrook Nature Center. The project will replace 3 climate-control units, a water heater, siding, roofing and insulation. In addition a wall of wet and dry animal exhibits will be built. Total cost of the project will be $490,000 with the Village of Itasca donating $100,000, the Park District adding $50,000, Friends of Springbrook donating $2,500 and the Itasca Lions Club funding $2,500. This project is partially completed.
The IDNR Grant was reinstated in and Phase 2 will be underway in the winter of 2019-2020 and include internal building modifications with interactive exhibits focusing on wetland, prairie, creek, and woodland as well as outdoor interpretive and way-finding signage.
Ray Franzen Bird SanctuaryJanuary 2015
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources awarded a $363,500 OSLAD Grant to the park district for renovation of the Ray Franzen Bird Sanctuary located behind the Softball Complex at 651 N. Rohlwing Road. This project will add Itasca's first Dog Park, a nature-based play area, shelter, grill and baggo sets. A separate area will have an interpretive nature trail, concrete and wooden boardwalks and habitat restoration. This grant was on hold and reinstated in 2017. The facility is opening in June 2018. The Barking Lot Dog Park was opened in May 2019.