The moment you pull that door open and enter the Vaughan Athletic Center, your world is transformed.
The stress and distractions of everyday life – even your fatigue from the day – suddenly vanish, replaced by a rush of energy and adrenalin. This is a vibrant, healthy place where people feel good, a place always buzzing with activity amid three swimming pools, two running tracks, fitness machines, free weights, tennis courts and sports programs galore.
Until now, all the action was confined inside this vast structure. That all changed last week with the grand opening of a beautifully designed, fully accessible outdoor playground – officially named Harmony Pointe – at the north end of the facility.
Built on 19 acres of land, this area didn’t look like much before the playground’s construction. Most of the land was set aside for storm-water management – complete with three lakes that double as detention basins – with the rest of the surrounding land comprised of wetlands.
The Park District kept those important natural areas intact, utilizing the two acres of dry land to construct a play area that will serve hundreds of children’s programs at the Vaughan Center, while also providing an outlet for the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association (FVSRA) that is headquartered there. Providing recreation to enrich the lives of individuals with disabilities is central to FVSRA’s mission.
The playground features age-specific play structures that appeal to children at various stages of development. Other features include an accessible fishing station and water-side overlook, a new shelter, athletic fields, picnic areas, open play areas and a sensory garden that hosts musical instruments and plant stimulation.
“This project will carry out an important objective to expand opportunities for nature-based play and education while also providing an outdoor play area for Vaughan Center camps and programs,” said Executive Director Nancy McCaul.
A looped path around the perimeter of the park area connects to Foxcroft Park and the neighborhood to the north.
The playground and natural area provide a study in contrasts. On one hand, it is a beautiful oasis of solitude in the middle of suburbia, a place where white egrets and blue herons forage in the shallow waters while ducks from all directions glide in for landings and hold quacky conversations.
The sounds of nature are just as quickly replaced by the excited laughs of children, wailing with glee while scurrying from one playground station to the next, as was the case last week.
“This playground and park took what was essentially a flood plain and combined it into an area of wetland preservation with a recreational component – hence the name, Harmony Pointe,” said Jeff Palmquist, director of planning, development and grants.
The playground also features a rubberized, resilient surface throughout. It’s the first of its kind in the Fox Valley Park District. Not only does it increase safety for park users, but it eliminates the mess of wood mulch chips and the expense of replacement.
True harmony, indeed.
Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fox Valley Park District
Saturday, Oct. 13: Live Wire performs during Pumpkin Weekends at Blackberry Farm, 1 to 2 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 13-14: Scarecrows on Display, Pumpkin Weekends at Blackberry Farm, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 19: Dad & Son Construct It Night, Eola Community Center, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 20: Fall Festival, Red Oak Nature Center, 1 to 3 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 20-21: Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre: ‘I’m Getting Murdered in the Morning,’ Prisco Community Center, 1 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 26: Halloween Family Fun Night, Prisco Community Center, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 26: Haunted House, Prisco Community Center, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Friday-Sunday, Oct. 26-28: Member Appreciation Weekend, Vaughan Athletic Center, daily.