Welcome to Crystal Lake Park - History & Mission
Our Mission Statement: To enhance the lives of our residents by providing programs, services, facilities and open spaces that safely promote health, recreation and community in an environmentally and fiscally responsible manner.
The first organized park commissions (the forerunners of the modern park district) in Illinois were formed in 1869 in Chicago. Others were authorized throughout the rest of the state in 1893 by the state legislature. Codification of Illinois laws relating to park districts were passed by the state legislature in 1951. These laws empower park districts in Illinois to levy taxes for general park maintenance and recreational programming, as well as other general powers.
The southeast portion of the Crystal Lake shore was first made available for general recreational use to the public by the Charles Dole family, in 1856, and then by a succession of ice company owners. In 1899, the Lakeside Amusement Park was constructed where the Main Beach Recreation building now stands but was destroyed by fire in 1904.
The Crystal Lake Park District was formed in 1921, out of community concern that public access to the lake and beach would be lost to private ownership. The newly formed Park District Board unsuccessfully negotiated with the Consumer Ice Company for this land and then instituted condemnation proceedings, and, in 1923, was awarded 1500 feet of lakefront and 27.78 acres for the sum of $19,250. In 1926, a brick recreation building at Main Beach was built.
In 1939, the Board purchased a 124 acre wooded tract to the north of town known as Walkup Woods. The property was renamed Veteran Acres to honor those who served in World War II.
In the 1960's the state passed legislation allowing municipalities to require real estate developer donations for schools and parks. After the City of Crystal Lake adopted such an ordinance, a number of parks were so acquired, including: Coventry School Park, Della Street Park, Louis Knaack Park, J.R. Ladd Park, Daniel Lapins Park, Canterbury School Park, the Hill Farm Park and Four Colonies Park.
In 1968, the 109 acre Lippold farm tract directly north of the lake was purchased with the aid of a state grant. The Nature Center was built in Veteran Acres in cooperation with School District 47, and the building at West Beach was completed. Also, in 1968, Grafton Park District consolidated with the Crystal Lake Park District and West Beach became part of the system.
The Racket Club, a private tennis club southeast of town, was purchased in 1982, and is successfully paying for the original purchase plus expansion through its own revenue. A $1,000,000 expansion and indoor court renovation took place in 1991.
Lippold Park, a complex boasting lighted and irrigated softball fields, soccer fields, fitness and recreational trails, was completed on the 109 acre tract in 1986. In the same year, the Crystal Lake Manor Park District consolidated into the Crystal Lake Park District, bringing Spoerl Park into the system.
Also in 1986, the Sod Farm, a 200 acre tract just west of Lippold Park was purchased. The park district received a grant in 1986, which allowed the purchase of Sterne's Woods, an 120 acre parcel of virgin woods and wetland northeast of Veteran Acres, and the 14 acre Mathews property. Development of Lippold and Sterne's Woods is ongoing and under way.
In 1993, after several years of volunteer work and hired labor, the Rotary Club of Crystal Lake, gave the Rotary Building to the Park District. The building held programs for the first time in September, 1993.
The Park District continued to aggressively pursue land adjacent to Veteran Acres, Sterne's Woods, in the lake watershed and other areas, in order to set aside precious open space. The 60 acre Stritzel property, east of Sterne's Woods, was acquired in 1994, by condemnation. Also in 1994, Wingate Prairie was designated as Illinois Nature Preserve, and named for Bill Wingate, who served as a steward to the prairie for many years.
In 1993, the park district began the development of the 200 acre sod farm complex which was named the Lippold Expansion Project. Phase I of the project included excavating and grading of a wetland pond system designed to cleanse watershed run off water before it could reach Crystal Lake, at a development cost of approximately $1,800,000. Phase II of the project included the development of two lighted baseball fields, two unlighted baseball fields, five additional soccer fields, a golf learning center, expanded parking lots, picnic shelter and paths. A grant in the amount of $200,000 was awarded from the Illinois Department of Conservation to help pay for the $886,500 second phase. Financing for this project was secured through a local bank. In the spring of 1993, the administrative offices moved from Main Beach to its current location.
Tax cap legislation in 1991, severely restricted the park district's ability to develop many neighborhood parks which had been added to the system largely due to the City of Crystal Lake's developer impact ordinance. The Tax Cap Act had inadvertently taken away park district authority to issue general obligation bonds to fund capital projects. In 1995, the state legislature corrected this oversight, while still placing limits on the amount park districts could secure. This enabled the park board to embark on an aggressive park development program that added many playgrounds, basketball courts, tennis courts, and paths to undeveloped or under developed community and neighborhood parks. The Barlina House renovation, Woodscreek Activity Building and washroom facilities at Veteran Acres and Sterne's Woods were also a part of the park development program and were under construction in 1996. In March of 1996, voters approved a $1.8 million Main Beach renovation bond issue. The Lippold Golf Learning Center opened in May of 1997, and Barlina House Preschool saw its first preschool classes on September 2, 1997. The renovation of Main Beach began on September 8, 1997, and opened to the public on Memorial Day weekend, 1998, right on schedule.
In the spring of 1998, the American Legion approached the park district and asked if the park district would be willing to purchase their building at 406 W. Woodstock Street. Looking for a place to house a senior center and teen center, the park district agreed, and closed on the purchase on June 1. The building was renamed Park Place and opened to the public in August 1998.
At the election of April 13, 1999, voters approved a $2,500,000 land acquisition referendum, for the purchase of 136 acres of watershed property (the Christ Farm) on Route 176, and 44 acres of wetland property on the corner of Ackman and Huntley Roads.
The Crystal Lake Park District takes the responsibility to preserve and protect the, as yet, undeveloped land and water areas over which this community has stewardship. At the same time, it must provide for all the recreational opportunities that the people of this district deserve. The challenge is great as rapid community growth threatens to both engulf open space and strain recreational facilities to their limits.