Gurnee History - Park District
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In 1941 a Recreation Tax was passed&emdash;A.J. Katzenmaier, Dorothy Powell and Grace Smith were appointed by the Village Board to the Recreation Board.
In August 1953 the village purchased the gravel pit and property from Mrs. Cora McCullough. Later a beach was made and the recreation Committee from the Village Board started a swimming program. Subsequently, in 1956 the Lions Club and American Legion built a bath house at the beach. Gowe Park, as it is now called, is still being operated by the Park District.
In 1963 the Brenamans donated a lot on Waveland Ave. for neighborhood park.
On July 1, 1968 the Village entered into an agreement with SEDOL and Gurnee Grade School to purchase the Viking property. Mr. Olof Moller, the manager of the Viking Home, was instrumental in getting this property for the community. The Village's portion of the property was later turned over to the Park District and now is Viking Park. The Viking School is still located on a portion of this property.
On July 10, 1968 there was hearing to form a Park District. After it was established the Village leased the Park property at the beach to the Park District. In 1971 the Park District bought the Viking property from the Village.
The Gurnee Park District traces its origin to September 7, 1968, when the residents of Gurnee authorized the creation of the district in a local referendum. The park district spent its formative years developing a comprehensive park and recreation plan for the residents of the district.
Viking Park was the first park site purchased by the district. Viking Park was developed in 1973 and 1974. Shortly thereafter, the dance hall was restored, a new restroom and concession building were built, a lighted ball field was constructed, the parking lot was expanded and new playground equipment was added in 1984 and 1985. Agreements for shared use of land with the Gurnee Grade School District and the Special Education District of Lake County provided the park district with valuable space for these improvements.
The park district leased the Gurnee Beach property from the Village of Gurnee in 1971 and continued the swim program originally established by the village in 1958. In 1973, the park board joined the village officials in designing the facility as Verne Gowe Memorial Park in honor of Mr. Gowe, who had made significant contributions towards the development of this facility. In 1982, the village transferred the title of this property to the Gurnee Park District. Throughout the years, the park district has improved this site to make it one of the most popular water parks in the area featuring a clean, sandy beach, water slide, concessions and picnic area.
In 1977, the residents approved a referendum to generate funds for acquisition and development of neighborhood parks and improvements to Viking Park and Gowe Memorial Park. With these funds, plus federal and state grants, Woodlawn Park and Chittenden Park were built and the Russell Road park site purchased. Russell Community Park was constructed in 1992 and features a large playground, basketball courts, 2 baseball fields, parking lot and restroom/shelter building.
Additional park sites have been acquired through donations by developers. Prairie Oaks Park was completed in 1978. South Park and Cedar Park sites were donated by the Marriott Corporation and both were built in cooperation with the Village of Gurnee in 1982. Kings Park and Westgate Park were built in 1991. In 1992 the district completed Southridge Park which was completely funded by developer donations. The Belle Plaine park site located north of Grand Avenue will provide neighborhood park facilities for the eastern portion of the village, development will occur as funds are available. The first phase of the Pembrook Community Park in Pembrook was constructed in 1992.
In response to the District's growing population and identification of leisure interest needs the Board of Commissioners have a Master Plan which includes the expansion of Viking Park for additional soccer fields, and the completion of Pembrook Park featuring ball fields, sand volleyball/ice rink, practice soccer fields, tennis courts and a walkway system.
The Gurnee Park District also has school/park sites at Spaulding Grade School and O'Plaine School. The park district continues to work with the school district and plans to maintain the open space at O'Plaine School.
The Village of Gurnee / History / Park District / Last Revised 05/28/1997