Prairie Path Park in downtown Glen Ellyn gets new look: 05/12/17

Posted on: May 12, 2017

Glen Ellyn Rotary Club grant helps fund cooperative effort by multiple agencies.

Prairie Path Park in downtown Glen Ellyn is blooming in more ways than one.

The park, located adjacent to the Illinois Prairie Path just south of the railroad tracks, is enjoying a sort of renaissance courtesy of a joint effort by several public and nonprofit agencies.

The Rotary Club of Glen Ellyn is partnering with the Glen Ellyn Park District, the Glen Ellyn Public Library and the Village of Glen Ellyn to bring added interest, beauty and recreation to the park. The club awarded a total of $10,000 in grant money for the project.

“I talked to local charitable organizations I thought might have a worthy project,” said Don Fischer, Rotary member. “After I met with all the agencies about potential projects, Dawn (Bussey, library director) came up with the idea of a story walk and talked to each of the agencies and she worked out a plan with them of upgrading the park, adding new plantings, the chess and ping pong tables, and repainting the gazebo.”

Two outdoor chess tables and an outdoor ping pong table were installed by the park district with the aid of a $5,000 grant from Glen Ellyn Rotary. The park district is further improving the area with plantings, mulch and other landscaping touches.

With the help of an additional $5,000 in grant money from Rotary, the Glen Ellyn Public Library has installed a StoryWalk ® in the park.

All three public agencies contributed additional funding and enhancements to the project.

The StoryWalk ® consists of a series of signs that, when read sequentially, tells readers a tale as they meander through the garden adjacent to the gazebo. The all-weather StoryWalk ® will be refreshed periodically to bring new stories and renewed interest, said Dawn Bussey, the library’s executive director.

Stephanie Rivera, the library’s youth services director, selected a story titled “Plant the Tiny Seed” by Christie Matheson as the inaugural book featured in Glen Ellyn’s StoryWalk ®. The picture book was published in January 2017.

“It’s a story about a garden growing. There’s no character in the story. You are the character, essentially,” Rivera said.

Rivera said StoryWalk ® was conceived in 2007 in Vermont as a way to integrate physical activity with literacy.

Rotarians gathered in the park on Duane Street on Saturday, May 6 to plant a variety of plant species near the park’s sign bed, said Dan Hopkins, parks superintendent.

Species planted include coneflowers, aka Echinacea, black-eyed susans, bluestem grass, coreopsis, lambs ear and monarda, which is also known as bees balm, Hopkins said. All of these plants are sustainable and low maintenance, he said.

The landscape design was accomplished with the donated help of landscape architect and Glen Ellyn resident Keith Demchinski, said Dave Harris, park district executive director.

“We wanted a professional to give us some guidance. We wanted it to flow and be more inviting,” Harris said.

When landscaping preparations are complete, the park district will plant a variety of plants in the park’s rain garden.

“These are plants that can be underwater for extended periods of time, and utilize the water,” said Hopkins.

Plans also call for the repainting of the park’s centerpiece, the gazebo, which was installed in 1989 by the Glen Ellyn Rotary Club and designed by Rotarian Jerry Perkins. The club also put in brick paver paths that year.

Park visitors are welcome to bring ping pong paddles and balls, chess pieces and checker sets to the park.  Game equipment also may be borrowed from the Glen Ellyn Civic Center, 535 Duane Street, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. All equipment must be returned by 4 p.m. the same day.

Library and park district officials began eyeing a renovation of the park, which covers slightly under an acre of land between Forest Avenue and Park Boulevard, in mid-2016.

The project got the green light in late 2016 with the Rotary Club’s grant approval. Planning and construction began in February 2017.

“I call it kind of a postage stamp park. It’s right along the Prairie Path. It’s used by runners, walkers, commuters, train patrons,” said Harris. “It’s a little park, but it really was overgrown. We removed some landscape shrubbery to open it up for the train station. Now it’s visible. You can see into the park.”

Harris a Rotarian, took part in last Saturday’s plantings at the park. He said passersby were generous with compliments.

“People are appreciative of the efforts,” he said.

Harris said the hope is that the chess tables and ping pong table, surrounded by well-tended gardens, will draw more visitors to the downtown area. He said similar amenities are available in Chicago and New York parks.

The StoryWalk ® should likewise entice more people to Prairie Path Park, where the fun of reading a story can be combined with appreciating the area’s natural beauty, Bussey said.


Posted: 5/12/17