To provide residents and guests opportunities to experience the benefits of parks and recreation.
To accomplish our mission:
- We work cooperatively with other units of government including the Village of Sugar Grove, Sugar Grove Township, Sugar Grove Police Department, Sugar Grove Fire Department, Sugar Grove Community House, Sugar Grove Library District, and Kaneland School District.
- Develop intergovernmental agreements with units of government to provide services more economically and to assure that services are available to residents.
- Plan cooperatively with the Village for appropriate land use and park acquisition and development.
Life is not lived in a vacuum. The small agricultural communities of Sugar Grove and Big Rock Townships in the mid-1940s enjoyed a rural life, and community leaders wanted to keep things that way. They did not want urbanization and all that went with it sprawling towards its boundaries. The city of Aurora, the nearest neighbor to the east, with a growing post-war population of more than 40,000 had very different plans, needs, and aspirations. Back in 1946, a survey was done to determine the best plan of action to beautify the Fox River and give veterans of World War II a source of income. At that time, the Fox River was a dumping ground for many of the manufacturing plants that operated in Aurora. Veterans were employed to help clean up the river, but community leaders thought that a clean river could be a source of recreation for Fox Valley residents and that could best be accomplished by the formation of a park district.
On April 1, 1947, Aurora area voters approved the proposal creating the Fox River Valley Pleasure Driveway and Park District. Although the top priority of the park district in 1947 was the dredging of the Fox River, acquiring new lands also was a priority, as was obtaining land for use as a nature trail (View Fox Valley Park District History). On that same day, voters in Sugar Grove and Big Rock Townships voted to form the Big Rock – Sugar Grove Townships Pleasure Driveway and Park District. The proposition carried 282 to 114. The purpose of forming this district was different from that of the Fox Valley district. The goal, according to local lore, was to form a special district to prevent the annexation to the Fox Valley district and to keep taxes as low as possible.
The first tax levy ordinance was passed by the newly-formed Big Rock – Sugar Grove Townships Pleasure Driveway and Park District in 1949 authorized a total of $1,320 for the year. The tax rate was established at .009. These funds were appropriated for administrative expenses including office supplies, equipment, election expense and audit as well as small salaries for a secretary and attorney. There was no mention of any funds to be used for any recreational purposes or for the acquisition or development of park land.
In the 1950s, the district’s appropriation ordinance expanded to include an annual $200 rental for “dumping privileges to keep trash and rubbish from Park District grounds and roads, streets, drives and bridges”. The creation of the public dumping grounds for garbage was in Big Rock Township on property rented from Mr. Francis Skelly. Again, there was no mention of any type of recreational programs or initiatives. The park district paid for dumping privileges until 1977.
Tax revenue for the district was approximately $2,101 in 1967. The appropriation ordinance passed in June of that year, earmarked funds for playgrounds and recreational purposes for the first time ever, albeit only a modest amount of $300.
In August 1968, a “self-appointed citizen group” in Sugar Grove proposed “Recreation ’68 Program” featuring recreation program activities for an average of 35 children for year 1969. These volunteers had already been providing activities like, arts and crafts, instructional sports such as archery, tennis and golf, movie night, and Friday night teen dances. They approached the park district board with a request for funding of about $245.62 to fund the balance needed to continue to run these programs after raising more than $2,000 in contributions, fundraisers, and donations.
The park board voted not to fund these programs for a variety of reasons including the fact that in doing so, the recreation funding for the entire district would have been expended for children in Sugar Grove without regard to Big Rock.
The following year, the park board approved funding for “Recreation 69” of Sugar Grove in the amount of $300 for recreation purposes.
1970s & 1980s
Small amounts of funding for recreational programming was given to groups in Sugar Grove and Big Rock over the next few decades. In 1971, checks were written to Sugar Grove Little League $250, Little League of Big Rock $150, and $300 for “Recreation 70” in Sugar Grove. Only modest increases in funding were given to these groups in subsequent years, and the district continued to exist on the same tax rate it had when the district was formed in 1947.
In 1994, the park board members from Big Rock Township initiated a plan to disconnect from the joint taxing body. Sugar Grove Township was growing at a much faster rate than its Big Rock Township counterpart. Board members of the district felt that the population of Sugar Grove Township wanted more recreational programs for its citizens, wanted more parks, and would be willing to pay more in taxes to have these services. On the other hand, Big Rock Township was thought to want to maintain its low tax rate and provide only moderate services. History was repeating itself from the early days with the Fox Valley district.
The process of disconnection was no easy feat. Park district leaders had to acquire signatures from more than 80% of the land owners in the Township limits. This took almost two years to complete, but by 1996 Big Rock Township was disconnected from the partnership. This disconnection was the largest ever by a park district in the state of Illinois. Soon after the disconnection, the park district board changed its name to the Sugar Grove Township Park District and Pleasure Driveway to better reflect its boundaries.
From the time of the disconnection in 1996 until 2003, the Sugar Grove district went to the ballots several times asking voters to approve a reorganized district and a new tax rate. After many defeats at the polls, the district finally passed a referendum on April 1, 2003. That day marks the birth of the Sugar Grove Park District as it is today. The proposition to reorganize as a Park District passed 998 to 494 votes. The funding proposition passed by a narrow margin of only 75 votes passing 769 to 694 giving the district tax revenues of about $350,000 annually.
By July 2003, the park district moved into a temporary office in a mobile building in Volunteer Park. In October, board members hired the district first ever full-time employee and director. Soon after, the director hired two more full-time staff, and transferred ownership and maintenance of village parks to the park district. He also began developing a brochure full of recreation programs for the community.
In January of 2005, the Sugar Grove Park District joined Fox Valley Special Recreation Association. The association provides “a diverse range of recreation and leisure opportunities engaging individuals with disabilities” for seven park districts in the Fox River region. By August, the District purchased the old Sugar Grove Fire Department building on Main Street and converted it to office space and a parks maintenance facility.
At the end of 2006, Sugar Grove Park District entered an Intergovernmental Boundary Agreement with Fox Valley Park District. The landmark agreement traded future tax income for in-district rates for Sugar Grove residents at Fox Valley programs. The following spring, the District celebrated with 50th anniversary of the Village of Sugar Grove with a commemorative Arbor Day tree planting ceremony on the front of the District administration building.
The District embraced the strategic planning process by conducting a community interest survey in 2008 and developed the District’s Open Space Master Plan in 2009. Also near the end of the decade, the District renovated and remodeled the Pavilion in Volunteer Park and renamed it the Prairie Building in keeping with the local landscape and the adjacent detention basin prairie.
Recognizing the community’s interest in bicycle and pedestrian pathways and the need for a comprehensive plan, the District joined the intergovernmental Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee and helped develop a plan for connectivity to existing local pathways.
On October 3, 2015, the Sugar Grove Park District celebrated the grand opening of Harter Community Park. The park was developed on land owned by Kaneland Community School District #302 at their Harter Middle School site using a matching $400,000 Department of Natural Resource grant. It features three ball diamonds, a multipurpose court, a shelter, a playground, baggo courts, pathways and enhanced natural areas.
The District’s Executive Director, Greg Repede, retired at the end of March 2018, after leading the agency since its origination in 2003. He began his tenure as the district’s first full-time employee and executive director. The District formally dedicated the administration building, the Repede Center, in honor of Greg and his numerous contributions to the District and community.
Later in 2018, the District purchased the property at the Sugar Grove Sports Complex from the City of Aurora and redeveloped the playground at Keck Park. After serving our young residents well for 22 years, play structures were replaced and a swing bay added to enhanced sidewalk surrounds and upgraded fall zone safety surfacing.
Looking to the 2020s
Sugar Grove Park District continues to operate with one of the lowest tax rates of all full service park districts in Kane County even though it serves a population of more than 19,000 people. The district has an annual budget of $1.2 million, maintains 115 acres of parks and open space, and offers 100s of programs annually. Our 20 parks contain baseball fields, soccer fields, playgrounds, basketball courts, shelters, and other amenities.
Under the direction and leadership of the Board of Commissioners, the director and staff are looking to the future with an eye toward sustainable growth. The District is working on a redevelopment and capital plan as part of the strategic planning process. It will be the culmination of efforts to identify future needs and desires provided by community focus groups and surveys to position the district for this progress.