Downers Grove residents can have say in future of Walnut Park

Downers Grove residents can offer their input regarding the development of Walnut Park during three open houses starting on Tuesday.

The Plan Your Park open houses will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 28, noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 6 and 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 9 at Walnut Park in the pavilion, 4721 Walnut Ave.

Downers Grove District staff will be available for questions and will welcome feedback from the community. Staff will also provide a site walkthrough for those interested. Refreshments will be served, according to a Downers Grove Park District news release.

For those unable to attend the open houses but still want to be a part of the planning process, the park district has provided an online presentation, feedback form and additional information on the District’s website at dgparks.org.

In 2020, the Downers Grove Park District began work on a long-term master plan for the existing Walnut Park property. This parcel of land is located on Walnut Avenue just south of Ogden Avenue in the northwest corner of Downers Grove.

Community input is a vital component in developing new recreation amenities to meet the current and future needs and desires of residents living in Downers Grove. Therefore, the district will host three Plan Your Park open house events to share draft concepts and receive community input for the Walnut Park Master Plan.

Acquired through two past land purchases—4.8 acres in 2008 and 14.8 acres in 2015—the Walnut Park property currently features one soccer field and a small picnic pavilion with a gravel parking lot. The site is mostly undeveloped land featuring a mowed path, which connects to the Belmont Prairie Nature Preserve and buffer.

Over the last decade, the park district has gathered input from the community regarding the development of this site through a needs assessment, stakeholder interviews and focus group discussions. This input indicated a high demand for an indoor sports facility featuring artificial turf and other recreation amenities.

In December, the park district kicked off the long-term planning by conducting a communitywide survey, which indicated a strong desire for walking and biking trails, indoor and outdoor athletic amenities, sports training, multi-purpose space and more. Community members also stressed the importance of preserving and improving the natural areas adjacent to the Belmont Prairie and buffer by providing new nature-based education opportunities.

Downers Grove Park District Executive Director, Bill McAdam, looks forward to the district establishing a long-term vision for Walnut Park.

“This property presents a unique balance of active and passive recreation opportunities. At the northern end of the property, our draft concepts propose an indoor sports complex, outdoor athletic fields, a playground with a splash pad and native landscaping,” McAdam said in the release. “At the southern end, we are proposing to improve the overall health and accessibility of the buffer and prairie to help educate visitors about this treasured natural area in our community.”

Easily accessible by Ogden Avenue, Interstate 355 and Interstate 88 on the north end of Downers Grove, the Walnut Park property would serve as a sports destination to accommodate local and regional tournaments, large-scale community events and expos. An indoor sports complex and outdoor athletic fields would complement amenities currently offered by the district and provide the opportunity for sports activities to be offered year round.

Belmont Prairie is a prairie remnant, which is protected by the adjacent prairie buffer. Both sites are recognized as Illinois Nature Preserves. Enhanced trails and interpretive signage would encourage visitors to explore and learn more about the natural world and the importance and significance of Belmont Prairie. The buffer zone could be improved to protect the prairie from invasive plant species.

“Community engagement in the long-term master planning process for Walnut Park is essential in developing a site that meets the needs of Downers Grove. We encourage residents to attend one of our upcoming “Plan Your Park” open houses to share your ideas and give input on the conceptual drawings and plans proposed for Walnut Park,” McAdam said.