Lake County Parks and Recreation (Rec) manages facilities across the county for families and groups to enjoy. If you love to golf, or want to take your child somewhere fun, yet enriching, Lake County Parks and Rec has the perfect place no matter the occasion.
“We do a little bit of everything - we've got around a dozen parks and facilities,” said Emily Trisler, communications director for Lake County Parks and Rec. “You can do anything from just coming out, taking yourself on a walk, or utilizing our programs. We have the children’s museum facility, Deep River Waterpark, bike trails, and different things like that.”
The people who unlock the gate at 7 a.m. are all employees of Lake County Parks & Rec who manage wildlife concerns, create programs, and communicate with the county
Lake County Parks and Rec manages two golf courses as well as a variety of spaces to appreciate nature. These include Buckley Homestead, Lake Etta, Lemon Lake, Oak Ridge Prairie, and so many more.
“We have lots of open space; we have large tracts of land. For example, Deep River County Park is 1400 acres,” Jim Basala, chief executive officer of Lake County Parks and Rec said. “The Grand Kankakee Marsh is well over 2000 acres, so there is that value in open space for psychological-emotional health and well-being of the community.”
The parks are a perfect place to take a break from a fast-moving life. Visitors can watch the waves at Whihala Beach or fish at Stoney Run. Bellaboo’s is a great place for children to have fun while being enriched by other children and new games.
“When you look at something like Deep River Waterpark, we're bringing tourism dollars into Lake County, so that's providing an economic benefit, as do our golf courses,” said Basala. “Actually, a lot of what we do provides economic benefits making Lake County a better place to live, do business, and visit.”
As normalcy returns, Lake County Parks and Rec is reinventing its old programs to ensure safety and fun. Programs such as Wild Ones at Gibson Woods, which teaches about gardening with native plants, are returning.
“We are getting back into having some more regularly scheduled programs, but you can also always go on the grounds and amongst the historic setting,” Trisler said about Buckley Homestead. “Even when we don't have something going on. It is a good park to just explore on a regular Wednesday afternoon if you wanted to. Historic buildings are open only during programs, but you can explore the grounds and outside of the buildings anytime. There are also animals there. Right now we've got chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, and cows.”
There are many opportunities for groups or school field trips at Gibson Woods, Buckley Homestead, Deep River Waterpark, and Bellaboo’s. These field trips can lead to memories that will remain with school children long after their trips.
“Growing up, I went to Oak Ridge Prairie as part of field trips and stuff. One day, I got something in the mail at my parent's house. It was from my third-grade teacher, and it was a little picture book she had put together from one of our third-grade trips over to Prarie. I'm sure she sent it to me because I was the easiest to find in the phonebook and go, ‘Oh, yeah, that's the only person with that last name,’” Trisler said.
“It was funny because it was also where I worked now. I got this little pocket of our classes’ trip to Oak Ridge Prairie to test pond water, which is a program one of our programmers still leads today. It was just a nice little full-circle moment,” Trisler concluded.
There are a variety of parks ready for visitors with plenty of places to discover.
“I don't care whether it's a Lake County park, a Valpo park, a Schererville park: pick a park. Parks are there for people to enjoy. Our tagline is 'get out, go play, explore.' I encourage everybody to enjoy their parks. Use the parks; that's what they're there for,” Bassala said.
For more information about places and ways to play and explore in Lake County, visit: https://lakecountyparks.com/.