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With an abundance of new buildings and recreational facilities, the Sycamore Park District and the DeKalb County Forest Preserve are responding to residents’ requests for more opportunities to improve their health, play on expanded sporting fields, learn about the natural world, and simply to enjoy life in an area that once was an ocean of prairie grass dotted with islands of woods and oak savannahs.

In response to a demand for recreational facilities, the Sycamore Park District this year opened a new, 40,000-square-foot community center at 480 Airport Rd. This is the first time in the park district’s 95-year history that it has owned its own community center. It was developed with the input of residents and the business community. The center’s grand opening drew an enthusiastic crowd.

“People were just ecstatic when they saw it,” said Daniel Gibble, executive director of the park district. “We were packed. There were little kids everywhere, especially in the gym where they were playing and having a good time.”

In addition to a gymnasium, the center features a fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment that is open 24 hours a day. The center offers a wellness program, Pathway Fitness, in cooperation with Northwestern Medicine and Northern Illinois University’s Department of Kinesiology. Members have included in their fee a physical assessment from Northwestern Medicine and can tap the expertise of a personal trainer for an hour to apply that assessment to a planned workout regimen designed to set them on the road to fitness.

“The personal trainers can give some guidance as to what their workout should be if a member wants that guidance,” Gibble said.

The center is furnished with the best and latest in workout equipment including individual television monitors at treadmills and on other equipment where a member can liven up their workout by watching TV, logging on to the internet or watch a movie on Netflix.

Other amenities are classroom space and a gymnasium for a variety of other activities including pickleball, volleyball and basketball. The walking track was often mentioned as a desired feature in the park district’s two community-wide surveys, and was included as plans were made for the center. ’

We have a lot of older adults looking for a safe place to walk indoors,” Gibble said.

Kids who need a place to cool down and run-off excess energy will enjoy the splash pad, which will open at the center this summer. The park district also will expand a birthday party program to include the splash pad, so children can celebrate their special day with friends and family while splashing in the water.

A path from the center connects to an outdoor patio where people can learn about the environment.

“We’re adding more environmental education programming. We have access to parks, streams and ponds. We want to make use of our resources to teach about the natural world,” Gibble said.

In that same spirit of appreciating the environment, the park district has restored about 50 acres of prairie at four parks: Sycamore Park, Old Mill Park, Sycamore Community Golf Course and Leon D. Larson Memorial Park.

Park district improvements in the works include improving the irrigation system at the golf course and a plan to build 12 new soccer fields and six baseball fields in response to requests from parents who want options for their young children to start learning about sports.

“We’re seeing a demand among parents to introduce younger children to the skills of sports, not necessarily competition,” Gibble said.

The DeKalb County Forest Preserve is committed to preserving, protecting, restoring and restocking the flora and fauna and natural beauties of the lands. In 2017, it opened the Sycamore Forest Preserve, which replaced the Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park that had been prone to flooding. The 60-acre natural area features shelter houses, picnic areas, hiking and cross-country ski trails, biking and birding and is handicapped accessible. The east branch of the Kishwaukee River flows along the preserve’s western flank.

The Great Western Trail has been extended into the new preserve and serves as a new trail head. The trail, which is a favorite of bicyclists, joggers, hikers and snowmobilers, connects with a network of other trails that extend nearly to Chicago. The trail is only 100 feet wide, but boasts some of the most pristine remnants in the county, and which have been used as a critical seed source as the forest preserve conducts prairie restoration projects.

Recreational Activities

Sycamore Park District
480 S. Airport Rd.

Sycamore Forest Preserve
955 East State Street, Sycamore

Kishwaukee Family YMCA
(815) 756-9577
2500 W. Bethany Rd.

Sycamore Family Sports Center, Inc.
(815) 895-7407
725 E. State St.

Kishwaukee Country Club Golf
(815) 758-6848
1901 Sycamore Rd., DeKalb