By Jack Carey, Executive Director of the Freeport Parks District
November 28, 2017
Sometimes in the late afternoon after the staff has left for their homes and the phones have stopped ringing at the Freeport Park District, I can sit in my office and catch the familiar click and clack sounds of skateboards and their riders working on new tricks at the Park District’s Skate Park adjacent to our offices in Read Park.
Some summer evenings when I’m sitting on my back deck of where I live near the entrance of Krape Park–if the wind is blowing from the right direction–I can catch the calliope music from the Krape Park Carousel over the roar of water spilling over the dam on Yellow Creek.
And it’s common over most weekends to spot young people playing a game of pickup basketball or families out in droves to support their son or daughter in one of the many baseball and softball tournaments hosted at Read Park.
These sounds and sights quickly remind me why I became a parks and recreation professional over 30 years ago. Though it’s easy to get overwhelmed with meetings, conversations over declining tax revenues, changes in liability laws, and the maintenance of buildings, equipment, and park facilities, at the end of the day parks and recreation is about people. It’s about providing a safe and clean environment for friends and families to enjoy the outdoors and create experiences and memories that we hope they cherish forever.
Last month, the Freeport Park District completed the rebuild and installation of new playground equipment at one of Freeport’s oldest and smallest neighborhood parks—Knowlton Square Park. The equipment that was replaced was the oldest we had still in use and was one of the last remaining that had yet to be replaced during my 16 yr. tenure with the park district.
Next month (weather permitting), we will start building ice at the Read Park Ice Skating Rink and cross our fingers that Mother Nature does her part to provide cold enough weather to sustain a smooth and hard surface for skating and outdoor hockey.
As I see it, these two seemingly different activities are linked in a very interesting way. These two recreational venues are examples of how our park system serves an increasingly important need in our lives.
Our 11 neighborhood parks and playgrounds give us clean and safe places to play outdoors with our friends, children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. Our bike and walking trails and paths give us miles to unwind, take deep breaths, and tune out the ever so chaotic world around us if we so chose. Our historic carousel, swan paddle boats, ice skating rink, skate park, swimming pool, tennis courts, golf and disc-golf courses, and baseball and softball fields allow for the creation of cherished memories spent with friends and families. Life is really about a series of moments.
In our increasingly fast pace and overly connected world of social media and 24-hour news cycles, I believe more and more people need special places and spaces they can unplug into. With our rolling hills, quiet country roads, 800 acres of parks, trails, nature, and warm hospitality, I believe Freeport is positioned to be such a place and that inspires me.