Written by Jeff Long
Wednesday, 14 August 2013 00:00
Construction of an amphitheater (above) and elevated walkways over wetlands (below) are well underway as part of a project at Lippold Park north of the Red Oak Nature Center on Route 25. (News Bulletin photos)
There’s a new development in the works, and it’s all the rage. Crowds are gathering, giddy in anticipation, and what began as a quiet murmur is growing into a chorus of excited chatter.
Yes, word is travelling along the Fox River, across the prairie and around the pond. The turtles told the frogs, the birds are singing songs and the butterflies are arriving in swarms.
Lippold Park has been reborn.
Phase II improvements are being implemented and the transformation of this 30-acre natural area is nearly complete. Tucked between the Fox River and Route 25 – just north of Red Oak Nature Center – Lippold is set to become an oasis for outdoor education.
Soon, the native flora and fauna will host visits from school children, Scout groups and local organizations. A classroom set amid nature’s beauty, Lippold is being developed by the Fox Valley Park District to bring learning opportunities that promote a greater awareness and appreciation for the natural world in particular, and the environment in general.
Learning opportunities abound for visitors of all ages and interests. Among the new features are a shelter-styled “tree house” in an amphitheater setting with large log tables and benches, interpretive displays and observation areas. An elevated skywalk runs throughout this area, which aslo features a centralized fire pit and rock-ledge seating.
A nature-based playground may also feature a building area with Lincoln Log type pieces of from ash trees at Lippold that were felled by the Emerald Ash Borer, said landscape architect Nathan Troia.
Nature’s bounty will be on full display with the expanded pond and prairie. The popular pond, already teeming with aquatic wildlife, is the epicenter for increased wetland areas that have grown as part of the project.
A new boardwalk also provides greater access – extending midway into the pond – and offering close-up views of fish, frog and turtles populations (no fishing, please). The boardwalk also extends to the shore of the Fox River, where panoramic views await.
(News Bulletin photo)
Storm water draining into those areas will be diverted by a bio swale along the eastern edge of the adjacent Fox River Trail. Runoff from the parking lot and trail is collected by the swale and slowly filtered back into the pond.
The spacious prairie, where plants and grasses and flowers shimmer in the sunlight and sway in the wind, is a panorama of natural diversity.
“It’s a phenomenal eco-system that’s continuing to be restored,” said Red Oak naturalist and environmental educator Margaret Gazdacka. “Lippold is going to allow us to greatly expand our nature-based programming for school groups, camps, family programs… and Nature Play preschool. It’s truly a community asset.”
An added bonus is that the park is 100 percent accessible, from parking lot to river’s edge, and all points in between.
The project traces back to the 2008 referendum that continues to reinvest funds into community parks. An additional $400,000 was allocated to the project from an Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Completion is expected this fall, right about the time the prairie begins bursting with autumn colors.
It’s a great example of growth and preservation tied together. Wildlife and natural habitats have been greatly enhanced, and the public’s appreciation for the outdoors is heightened. No wonder the natural kingdom is ecstatic!
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 13:42