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Great Parks! PrairieWalk Pond and Dragonfly Landing in Lisle

When I was compiling the Splash Pad Guide, I learned of a new spot: Dragonfly Landing in Lisle. So on a sweltering day in mid-July, the preschooler and I decided to check it out. 

A very unique flower at Dragonfly Landing in Lisle. Photo by Tara Burghart.Park Name: PrairieWalk Pond and Dragonfly Landing, a 4.5 acre natural area funded with help from a $400,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. PrairieWalk Pond serves as a storm water retention basin that supports the redevelopment in downtown Lisle. It opened in October 2010. Dragonfly Landing, which features a splash pad and playground, opened in June 2011.

Location: Just west of Main Street in downtown Lisle. The park is bordered by Route 53 on the west, Ogden Avenue on the north, Burlington Avenue on the South and Garfield Avenue on the east. (If you are using your GPS, it's probably easiest to navigate to the intersection of Garfield and Burlington avenues. Street parking is not allowed; instead you can park in a public lot off Garfield Avenue. The spots under the trees do not require a permit. You'll see the signs.)

Amenities: PrairieWalk Pond features a 2-acre pond with a lighted path around it, a number of scenic overlooks, a preserved wetland and a gazebo. It also features more than 100 different types of native plants, grasses, shrubs and trees. plus educational signage. Dragonfly Landing is a nature-themed splash pad with "giant" flowers that mist water. It also has a picnic shelter with a living "green" roof (although it's brown this year because of the drought) and a playground that in addition to your normal slides and climbing walls features spinning "cat tails" and bouncy, wooden "lily pads." There are no restrooms, just a portable toilet and a hand-washing station. The park has a water fountain. 

Admission: Parking and the park are free. The splash pad is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. It opened from the season on Memorial Day weekend, and while I can't find this info for sure, I bet it closes for the season Labor Day weekend.

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Great Parks: North Aurora Island Park

If you're looking for a nice spot to picnic along the Fox River (No. 6 on the Go West Sand Pail List) you won't go wrong with the latest in our "Great Parks!" series.

Park Name: North Aurora Island Park, a nearly 10-acre park that is part of the Fox Valley Park District.

This fish is one of the "park pets" at North Aurora Island Park. Photo by Tara Burghart.Location: In the middle of the Fox River in North Aurora, just south of Route 56 (Butterfield Road). To get there, use either Route 31 or Route 25 to get to North Aurora, then the State Street Bridge across the Fox River. The park, and its parking lots, are to the south of State Street.

Amenities: The park underwent a major renovation in 2009. It features two shelters, restrooms, a picnic area, trail access and water access. I confess I didn't check out the restrooms, so I'm not sure if they are just port-a-potties or something more permanent. The playground is extensive and features lots of slides, climbing opportunities, monkeybar-like elements, a teeter-totter, two huge fish sculptures and eight swings, including baby swings. There is also a large sandpit with boulder "outcroppings," so make sure to bring your sand toys! It's easy to walk to the riverfront to feed birds, admire nature or skip rocks. 

Good for: Children who love to play in the sand or get up close to nature and the river. (A textured concrete walkway in the playground contains real blue heron and raccoon tracks imprinted in it.) Also for parents who appreciate a modern, very clean playground in a scenic setting.

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Great Parks! Lions Park in Elburn

The latest in the "Great Parks!" series is one especially for all the kids who love sand, and for the parents who love them.

The tire swing at Lions Club Park in Elburn was a hit with my preschooler. Photo by Tara Burghart.Park Name: Lions Park in Elburn. Rather than being part of a local park district, the 25-acre Lions Park is owned and operated by the Elburn Lions Club. Lions Clubs International is the world's largest service organization.

Location: 500 South Filmore St. in Elburn, just one block west of Main Street (Route 47).

Amenities: Lions Park features two baseball diamonds, a number of picnic tables and benches. The playground is very large instead of being surrounded by mulch, there is sand underneath. The playground has extensive equipment for preschoolers and older children, as well as a small toddler playground. There is a set of swings (including two baby swings) and also two tire swings, as well as a very small merry-go-round (don't worry - we couldn't get it to go very fast.) It also features two "backhoes" that kids operate with their hands to scoop up and dump sand. There are indoor bathrooms in the Elburn Lions Club clubhouse, but they were closed when we visited on a recent weekday afternoon. Alternately, there were two portable toilets.

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Great Parks! Rocket Ship Park in St. Charles

I'm optimstic that we have plenty of park weather left this falll, so this week we visit a park that will appeal to all the little astronauts out there.

Kehoe Park in St. Charles. Photo by Tara Burghart.Park Name: Kehoe Park, part of the St. Charles Park District. It is better known, however, as "Rocket Ship Park" because of the - you guessed it - rocket ship slide on the playground.

Location: Located at the intersection of 8th, Prairie and Howard Streets in St. Charles. It's located between downtown St. Charles and Randall Road. There is no parking lot, but street parking is easy.

Amenities: This is a small, 1.5-acre neighborhood park. It features a modern playground, 1960s-era rocket ship slide, swingset, drinking fountain and a small gazebo with a picnic table. It does not have bathrooms or a portable toilet.

Good For: Kids who love pretending to be astronauts or space aliens. The playground is good for all ages, although the area aimed at toddlers is connected by a swaying bridge to the equipment aimed at older kids. 

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Great Parks! Waa Kee Sha Park Park in Oswego

If you’re looking to find some peace and quiet, the most recent spot in our “Great Parks!” series might be a perfect fit.

The playground at Waa Kee Sha Park. Photo by Tara Burghart.Park Name and Size: Waa Kee Sha Park. It is 22 acres and part of the Oswegoland Park District.

Location: Located at 4700 Reservation Road in Oswego. (I used my car’s GPS to find the park; For those of you who are more familiar with Oswego, the park district’s website notes that it is located on the south side of Reservation Road, off of Grove Road.)

Amenities: A playground; swingset; large picnic shelter; grills and picnic tables; natural area; trails for hiking and cross country skiing; horseshoe pits; fire ring; portable toilet.

Good For: Families, children, birthday parties and other large gatherings, hikers, cross-country skiiers.

Our Experience: My daughter and I were in Oswego a few weeks ago, and I wanted to check out something new to us. I got on my smart phone, went to the Oswegoland Park District’s list of parks and headed toward Waa Kee Sha Park solely because I was intrigued by its name.

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