The 2021 Address on the State of the Naperville Park District has been released as a podcast and has the appropriate theme, “Rising to the Challenge”.
In the five-part series, Park District leaders and elected officials discuss district goals, finances, and plans, while taking an in-depth look at the pivots the group has made during the pandemic.
Pivoting for the pandemic
Leaders shared on the podcast that keeping up with evolving state protocols was a particular challenge. The district began taking action in February 2020, anticipating the changes to come.
“In the short term, our team immediately came together, a collective effort by all means, and reviewed our current operating and capital budget and reduced over $4 million in expense reductions were identified at the times on the operational side of how we might adjust what we do, where we need fewer resources,” said Naperville Park District Finance Manager Sue Stanish. “And then on the capital side – what projects are underway that we need to keep funding, the promises we made to the community about what projects would be done. And those that hadn’t started that we could carry over to future years, or even potentially eliminate.
What could go on
The district then considered what it could continue to offer to the public. Programs were adapted into virtual models and indoor programs were moved outdoors, thanks to the hard work of the staff.
“They continued to find creative ways to deliver deals, to maintain contact with the public, to give them outlets,” said Mike Reilly, Chairman of the Board of Naperville Park. “So just the response from the staff, and how they really dug in and again, despite all the changes that were happening, they really delivered.”
New socially distanced friendly activities have been added, such as the Midday Spray at Rotary Hill, fireworks at the Frontier Sports Complex on July 4, and the Halloween Nights Lights event in October.
Parks, playgrounds and trails saw a surge in visitation as the community sought out safe outdoor activities. Golf courses have become the place to be, with the demand for online reservations for a tee time crashing the website on the first day the service was offered.
The addition of the 95th Street Community Plaza and wading pool along with the partial opening of Wolf’s Crossing Community Park gave the public new places to explore.
This year, with the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Park District is optimistic that some of its traditional offerings will return, based on mitigation measures and state parameters. At the top of this list is Centennial Beach.
“We plan for a regular beach season as much as possible. We are considering trying to do advanced daily sales, so you can purchase your daily pass for the day ahead of time before you come to the facility,” Aquatic Manager Jackie Gonzalez said. “Same as some remote controls for Centennial Grille, so we’re trying to… reduce lines at our facilities so you don’t have to congregate with groups of people.”
Going forward, the Park District will continue to offer some of the services that have proven popular during the pandemic.
“With our programs, we are again looking at the use of outdoor space,” said Brad Wilson, director of recreation and facilities. “By using the outdoors, moving some of our programs to places where people can disperse, and what we’ve found is that residents feel comfortable when they’re in a program at the outside. Using some of our larger spaces, having smaller class sizes, all of that will continue. »
Some virtual programming will also continue. And, residents will see the return of the Midday Spray.
In total, the district has more than 50 capital improvement project initiatives for 2021. These include infrastructure improvements like a new parking lot at 95and Street Community Plaza, adding ADA accessible trail connections, and renovating playgrounds and skating rinks.
The full 5-episode podcast can be found on the Naperville Park District website and on most podcast apps.
If you have a story idea, we want to hear from you!
Reporting by Kim Pirc of Naperville News 17.