Downers Grove Park District celebrates 75th anniversary

On June 15, 1946, an election took place in Downers Grove, and 130 residents voted in support of a referendum that would establish the Downers Grove Park District.

In 2021, the park district is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

“Our history is very impressive, and we’ve changed with the growing community,” said Felicia Camacho, the park district’s recreation supervisor. “From knitting classes at our origin to technology classes now, we want to touch on how the park district has changed and grown, too.”

Today, the park district offers more than 1,800 annual recreation programs, has 24 playgrounds and includes 48 parks on more than 600 acres, said Dawn Hartman, the district’s director of marketing and community engagement. On its 20th anniversary, the district managed 15 parks on 119 acres, Hartman said.

The Downers Grove Golf Course and Downers Grove Museum also are part of the park district, along with many other amenities residents may not realize are run by the district, Camacho said.

“We want to make these sites and things become a reality from within our history,” Hartman said. “We have a history of creating memorable experiences, and that’s been our theme throughout all of this, so we want to know what the memories are that stuck with folks.”

The park district is celebrating its 75th year with a series of events. Some already have begun, others are rapidly approaching, and more are yet to be planned, Hartman said. A special exhibit at the museum, 831 Maple Ave., currently is on display.

The anniversary exhibit, “DGPD Inspiring Memorable Experiences Since 1946,” opened June 19 and will be on display until June 2022. The exhibit offers a timeline-inspired look at the park district’s history, following through to recent history and the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s a community connection to recreation and protecting our history because there’s pride in our community,” Camacho said. “Our exhibit strives to bring past and present together to share that history and connection with the community.”

The Downers Grove Museum is still operating under COVID-19 guidelines and requires a reservation for attendees to see the exhibit. Reservations can be made by calling 630-963-1309.

The park district has created a yearlong scavenger hunt that is available by downloading the free app Scavr. Once participants download the app and sign in, they will be prompted with a series of questions leading them to iconic park district locations. Participants will go to the location they believe answers the question and take a photograph at that location. The hunt contains 12 questions, and those who enter 10 correctly will receive a free T-shirt.

“The whole point of the scavenger hunt is to get people out in the community,” said Darby Beasley, the park district’s community events and sponsorship specialist. “It won’t cost anything to participate but will lead to places people can be patrons of.”

Throughout the year, the park district plans to host a number of park celebrations, Beasley said. One event was the grand reopening party at Prince Pond, which was June 29 and featured crafts around the pond, music and a ceremonial ribbon-cutting. To stay up to date on events and new additions to the 75th-anniversary celebration, check the park district website at or the park district Facebook page.

With 75 years to celebrate and the pandemic highlighting the importance of the park district, Hartman said the district is excited for what has been and what is to come, including improvement projects and additional services it soon hopes to provide.

“We always knew parks and recreation are essential, but I think the pandemic reminded people how essential,” Hartman said. “Knowing our history helps us pave our future.”