History of the Wheeling Park District

The Wheeling Park District, incorporated in 1961, is located in northern Cook and southern Lake Counties, and is 27 miles northwest of downtown Chicago. The Park District is an Illinois Distinguished Accredited Agency and serves a population of approximately 38,000 residents living within the Village of Wheeling and small portions of Prospect Heights, Buffalo Grove, and Arlington Heights. It encompasses an area just over 8.5 square miles. The Park District is considered to be a primary government – providing a full range of recreation activities, public open space, recreational facilities, a full-service country club, and district-wide events for its communities.    
The Park District is governed by an elected, seven-member board, and operates under a Board-Manager form of government, with its primary purpose being to provide parks and recreational opportunities to its residents. Services provided include recreation programs, park management, capital development, and general administration. The Park District manages 19 sites on 329 acres. Recreational facilities operated by the Park District include one undeveloped natural area with a 13 acre lake, nine neighborhood parks, one community/regional park, sports complex with four artificial turf fields, one outdoor aquatic center, one community recreation center, one indoor aquatic center, a fitness center, historical museum, two community gymnasiums (shared with Community Consolidated School District 21), one artificial turf football field (shared with Wheeling High School and co-owned with School District 214)and a championship-quality golf course and banquet facility, as well as a number of softball/baseball diamonds, football and soccer fields, playgrounds, and picnic shelters.

The Wheeling Park District – Historical Timeline

The citizens of Wheeling, Illinois, voted to give themselves the gift of a Park District on December 23, 1960, with a special election held at Mark Twain School. The first meeting of the Park District was held January 11, 1961, at Wheeling Village Hall, and was presided over by newly-elected Commissioners Arthur Aronson, Arthur Brown, Audrae Duke, Ralph Neubauer, and Theodore Scanlon. Brown became the first Park Board President. Park District programs were held in the schools and on the playgrounds of School District 21. The next four decades were spent acquiring, developing, and maintaining open space for guests to enjoy.

In 1962, the Village of Wheeling donated three adjoining lots on Nancy Lane to the Park District. The half acre of land is known as Meadowbrook Park.

In 1964, with a grant from the Federal Open Space Land Program, the Park District purchased 66 acres of land situated between the Wisconsin Central railroad tracks and Wolf Road, just north of Meadowbrook subdivision, from G.D. Searle and Company. Construction began on this area, known as Heritage Park, in 1965 with a community recreation center, a lighted baseball field, and an ice rink. That same year, the five-acre Husky Park at the east end of Lee Street, south of Jack London School, was acquired by the Park District.

In order to provide an ingress and egress to Heritage Park, the Park District acquired a residential lot on Jeffery Avenue at Jeanne Terrace from Family Homes, Inc. in 1968.

Another piece of land, north of the existing property line along Wolf Road, was purchased for use as a retention basin in 1969. Around the same time, an easement was granted to the Village of Wheeling to construct a retention basin and pumping station to control flooding in the area around Husky Park. After leasing the Wheeling Chamber of Commerce Park on Wolf Road from the Wheeling Chamber of Commerce for many years, the Park District bought the property in 1969. That year, the Park District was also able to buy the adjacent outdoor swimming pool facility from Wheeling Community Pool, Inc.

The Park District acquired a Civil War-era church building in 1970 and moved it to the Chamber Park site. The building was remodeled to hold community meetings and recreational programs. In 1970, the Park District was able to purchase 8.35 acres of land on the former Skinner Farm property. As part of the acquisition plan, the parcel was subdivided. Three acres became Northside Park on Glendale Street. The rest was sold to School District 21 for a new school site.

By the early 1970s, land was becoming scarce in Wheeling. With the passage of a tax referendum in 1972, the Park District was able to move forward with a comprehensive development program to designate open space for the leisure needs of residents and guests. A contract for $32,500 was negotiated with Hollywood Builders for a three-acre tract of land referred to as North Park, now the western edge of Childerley Park. The Park District acquired the site in 1974 after being awarded a grant for half the cost from the Illinois Department of Conservation, Bureau of Outdoor Recreation.

The Park District acquired the 10 acres of land that became Horizon Park in 1975. To develop the park in 1984, the Park District sold the existing house on the property and one-half acre of the land.

The 2.3 acres adjacent to Meadowbrook Park was obtained by the Village of Wheeling from the Metropolitan Sanitary District in 1976 and the Park District signed an intergovernmental agreement in 1982 to lease the land for 99 years.

The other 10 acres that became Childerley Park were owned by a religious organization, the Calvert Foundation of Chicago, and used as a retreat. In March of 1977, Wheeling residents approved another referendum allowing the Park District to acquire the Childerley land and Chevy Chase Country Club.

The Village sold the original Wheeling Village Hall on Milwaukee Avenue to the Park District in 1978. The building was moved to Chamber Park and now houses the Historical Museum.

In 1981, the Wheeling Park District renovated and restored the original chapel at Childerley Park to honor former Commissioner Lorraine E. Lark, who passed away in 1980. She served on the Board for 13 years, eight as president.

The acre of land that became Malibu Park was used to stockpile soil during construction of the Malibu subdivision. The developer donated the land to the Park District in 1984.

In 1985, the Park District acquired the four acres of land remaining from the Lemke Farm in south Wheeling. With the acquisition of a second smaller parcel on Equestrian Lane and a grant from the Department of Natural Resources, the Park District, in cooperation with Prospect Heights Park District, developed Pleasant Run Park.

In 1988, the historic Carriage House, located on Dundee Road, was acquired from the Village of Wheeling and moved to Chamber Park.

The Park District obtained 10 acres fronting Dundee Road in 1990 from Wickes Companies, Inc. By early 1992, the Park District was able to begin work on the Aquatic Center and an adjoining 400-car parking lot. Residents approved a referendum in March of 1992 to build a new Community Recreation Center to replace the outgrown center at Heritage Park.

The Park District increased the size of the CRC in 1999 with the addition of the Arctic Splash indoor pool and Fitness Center. Also in 1999, the Chevy Chase Country Club underwent a one-year, $4 million renovation to restore the inside and outside of the structure.

Husky Park was redesigned in 2001 with financial assistance from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The detention basin was converted into an outdoor classroom and wetland area, including a beautiful waterfall feature. Husky Park won the 2002 Conservation and Native Landscaping Award from the Chicago Wilderness Society and Environmental Protection Agency.

The Aquatic Center was expanded during 2002 to add new water features. Denoyer Park served as a campsite for Girl Scouts and originally housed a log cabin, three buildings, an outhouse, and a greenhouse. These structures were removed when the Park District purchased the property in 1999. In 2000, the park was redeveloped, and in May 2002, it was dedicated to the residents of Wheeling. In 2002, Traditions at Chevy Chase Golf Course was redesigned with manicured bent grass fairways and greens, 50 reconstructed bunkers, and a beautiful water feature. Traditions at Chevy Chase Golf Course won the 2004 Golf Inc., Crittendon Renovation of the Year Competition in the Daily Fee/Municipal Division.

The Wheeling Park District Board of Commissioners adopted a new Mission statement for the Park District:

To provide memorable experiences in parks and recreation that enrich our communities.

Also, in 2004, the Wheeling Park District Board of Commissioners adopted a new logo:

In August 2007, the Park District purchased 10 acres of land from St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church. At the time of acquisition, the land was being rented from the Church by the Park District for athletic field usage. Upon purchase, the land was incorporated into Heritage Park. Financing for the purchase of this property included a $400,000 Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Also in August, the Park District executed a land exchange with the Village of Wheeling. The exchange called for six acres of Park District land adjacent to Dundee Road to be swapped for eight acres of Village land adjacent to Heritage Park. The Park District incorporated this new property into Heritage Park. The Village of Wheeling used the newly acquired land as the future site for the new Village Hall.

Addressing the community’s desire for additional open space, the Park District acted quickly when an opportunity arose to purchase 31 acres on the south side of Lake Cook Road, between Milwaukee Avenue and Northgate Parkway. This undeveloped property includes a 13-acre lake, a 10.5 acre wetland, and several acres of field space. The land will be preserved as open space and utilized for passive recreation activities.

The result of several years of discussions and planning culminated in the signing of an Intergovernmental Agreement among the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC), the Village of Wheeling, and Wheeling Park District in July. Along with permits and easements, the Park District transferred to MWRDGC approximately 14 acres in Heritage Park, to provide for upstream compensatory storage for Levee 37, in return for drainage improvements and substantial recreational enhancements to Heritage Park. In December, the Park District was able to acquire a residential property on Norman Avenue, adjacent to Husky Park, in order to increase access and visibility to an existing park. This acquisition gained support from the neighborhood residents, as additional access was a recognized priority identified by the Park District in 2009. The land area added to Husky Park was .2 acre.

To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Wheeling Park District, a series of events and activities were organized throughout the year. A logo was developed and used on all staff attire, signage, stationery, and promotional materials.

The highly visible Heritage Park Redevelopment Project, a cooperative effort among the Park District, the Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC), and the Village of Wheeling, continued to move forward.

In April, the Park District purchased a vacant building at 245 Egidi Drive to replace the existing Parks and Facility Maintenance Building. The existing facility was torn down to make way for the construction of a stormwater retention basin as part of the Heritage Park Redevelopment project. The funds for this purchase came from the MWRDGC as part of the agreement.

The Park District Board of Commissioners approved an agreement with High School District 214 to pay for half the installation cost of synthetic turf at Wheeling High School. Construction on the field began in May and was ready for the first games of the fall season. A dedication took place in September at the annual Hometown Celebration.

In late fall, Northside Park reopened after a $250,000 renovation project.

After a number of Board and staff workshops, and evaluating community input, on May 8, the Park District Board officially approved the Wheeling Park District 2012-2017 Strategic Plan. The Park District developed its Strategic Plan to provide direction in serving its communities in parks and recreation for the time period of May 2012 to April 2017.

In April, a Neighborhood Park Improvement Plan was formally adopted by the Board of Commissioners.

The redevelopment of Heritage Park continued to be the largest project undertaken by Wheeling Park District. A contract was awarded for construction of this project and a groundbreaking ceremony was held in June. Construction officially began in September.

Construction continued on the Heritage Park redevelopment project. The site plan includes extensive site landscaping, athletic complex with lighted synthetic turf baseball/softball/soccer/football fields, concession building, bandshell, and pavilion.