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Great Parks! Hudson Crossing Park in Oswego

If you’re looking for a playground located right next to the Fox River, it will be hard to find a prettier setting than Hudson Crossing Park in Oswego. And that’s even though I visited on a blustery, gray November day!

The view from the playground equipment. Photos by Tara Burghart.Hudson Crossing comprises about 6 acres and is located in downtown Oswego, on the east side of the Fox River where Route 34 (Washington Street) crosses the water. And there is a historic explanation for its unique name.

According to the Oswegoland Park District, wagons and stagecoaches traveling the Fox River Trail (from Ottawa to Geneva) and the Joliet-Galena trail crossed the river at a ford at the present site of the park.

The village was first named Hudson (after Hudson, N.Y.) before residents changed it to Oswego in 1837. So the park was named in honor of the village’s original name and the crossing that led to its beginnings. Entrances to the park are marked with lovelyl limestone columns topped with arches depicting a wagon wheel passing through the Fox River.

OK. Now you know the history of the site, what can the park offer the modern-day visitor?

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Great Parks! Wheeler Park in Geneva

Wheeler Park in Geneva is a great example of a true community park. It’s not flashy, but it offers something for everyone in the community.

The pavilion and a walking trail at Wheeler Park. Photos by Tara Burghart.The Geneva Township Senior Center is located in the 57-acre park, as is the Stone Creek Miniature Golf Course, which is closed in the colder months but will reopen next spring. At least one of the park’s tennis courts is almost always in use whenever I visit. There are two paved, looping walking trails, each ½ mile long that can easily be combined into a 1-mile trek. It has a baseball diamond, and I often spot teen athletes running through the park or using the athletic fields to practice soccer or lacrosse.

Wheeler Park has a small pavilion you can rent, plus lots of mature trees and picnic tables. Of course it has playground equipment. And in the winter, the park district builds an ice skating rink in the parking lot. This winter, Wheeler Park might even get two rinks.

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Great Parks! Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva

With its riverfront setting, Japanese garden, arbors, zoo cages and windmill, the Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva gives you a glimpse into how wealthy Chicago families enjoyed life at their “country homes” in the early 1900s. It’s also an amazingly beautiful spot to spend a morning or afternoon exploring, relaxing and getting up close to the Fox River.

A gate at the Fabyan Forest Preserve. Photos by Tara Burghart.The Fabyan Forest Preserve was once part of a large country estate called “Riverbank.” Owned by George Fabyan and his wife Nelle, it eventually became their permanent home.  When they died in the 1930s, theKane County Forest Preserve District purchased 235 acres of the estate and made it into the preserve.

The preserve is located on both the east and west sides of the Fox River, with entrances on both Route 25 and Route 31, just north of Fabyan Parkway.

The preserve doesn’t have any playground equipment. But as I watched my 2-year-old daughter’s delight at the crunching sounds the leaves made under her feet and her joy on the face as we played chase around the huge tree trunks, , I realized there are things certainly better than playground equipment!

What the preserve does have is plenty of open space and tables at which to picnic, spots to fish, and paved trails on which you can walk, run or bike. It also offers tons of history.

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Great Parks! Mt. St. Mary Park in St. Charles

For children – and parents – who are not scared of heights, Mt. St. Mary Park in St. Charles is definitely worth a visit.

Now I admit, the “Great Parks!” series is in its infancy, but Mt. St. Mary is home to the tallest playground structure I’ve seen. Don’t take my word for it. Just look to that photo to the left.

When I first saw these winding slides and multiple flights of stairs, I thought, “Whoa!” But the stairways are all enclosed and the playground surface is that forgiving, rubberized kind. And the kids and parents there during a recent visit were having a ball.

Mt. St. Mary has a lot more to recommend it than this awesome playground structure (which has a skydiving theme, natch.)

The picturesque, 29-acre park is located along the west bank of the Fox River, near downtown St. Charles, just south of the Prairie Street bridge.

There are paved walking and biking trails that wind through the park and hug the river, so you can easily appreciate the beauty of the Fox River up close. At the canoe launch, you can walk right up to the river’s edge.

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Great Parks! Green's Filling Station Park in Yorkville

Do you have a mini Jeff Gordon or Danica Patrick zooming around on your driveway or sidewalks? Then I have a park for you!

Photos by Tara Burghart.Green’s Filling Station Park in Yorkville is all about transportation: One of the slides is mounted on what looks like a truck, kids can pretend to steer a dune buggy, even the royal blue garbage cans are decorated with images of cars and motorcycles.

But the real treat is the asphalt “road” that encircles the entire playground, with a white dotted stripe down the middle to keep the traffic in the correct lane. Along the way, there are traffic lights (not operational when we visited, unfortunately) and signs that require the riders to stop, check for a railroad or yield to pedestrians. They can even pedal up to get gas at a couple of toy pumps.

We took my daughter’s Radio Flyer “Scoot-About” along, and she loved rolling along on the road. It would be an awesome place to organize a tricycle or scooter race, or for a child learning to ride a bike, with or without training wheels.

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