Rockford Park District

Yvonne Boose

Some children dream of being police officers. A northern Illinois park district took some youth through a simulation.

Fake gun shots rang during the Rockford Park district’s annual youth police academy last week. This year’s program was funded by an Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority grant. 

Peter Medlin

The opening of trout fishing season is a very popular time at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

But because “popular” means big crowds, the district was forced to close freshly-stocked lakes to avoid an influx of visitors.

Park districts and forest preserves across the country are cutting back services and closing facilities during the pandemic.

People are searching for ways to move around and get fresh air, and that can mean visiting a local forest or park.

Francie Barnes and friend

On our inaugural Under Rocks podcast: We celebrate the weirdness of winter in northern Illinois. Dan Libman and Susan Stephens hit the slopes (the sled slopes), pedal icy backroads, traipse through freshly-fallen snow with a trail groomer, and find out just what that brand new mountain in the middle of a DeKalb park is made of.

Grab your mittens and hop on!

Highlights of this episode: It's a wintry mix!

Your favorite local sledding spots.

We visit two of your favorite sled hills in DeKalb County: Russell Woods and Hopkins Park.

Victor Yehling / WNIJ

The 34th Annual Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition is underway in Rockford.

The event is hosted by the Rockford Park District and allows high school students and adults to compete through an unusual artistic medium -- snow.

John Beck is an alderman and works for the Park District. He said the event is a big attraction for the community.

Rockford Park District

Hard Rock International has pledged several philanthropic initiatives to the Rockford Park District if the company secures a casino license in the city. 

The district has been searching for alternative sources of funds due to declining property tax revenue. Hard Rock approached them several weeks ago about public investment. Rockford Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine proposed several music-related projects. These include an outdoor amphitheater and a music production studio at a community center. 

Perspective: Remembering Webbs

Feb 1, 2019

Note: Longtime Rockford Park District executive director Webbs Norman died Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. His visitation is Friday, Feb. 1 from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church in Rockford. His memorial service is at MercyHealth Sportscore Two in Loves Park, Saturday, Feb. 2, beginning at 11:00 a.m. Woodstock resident and WNIJ Perspectives author Lou Ness has this remembrance.

Rockford Park District

The man who made the Rockford Park District an award-winning entity has died. Webbs Norman passed away Saturday at the age of 85.

Norman was Executive Director of the Rockford Park District from 1972 to 2006. He led the development of many of the city's biggest recreational projects, including Magic Waters water park, two ice arenas, the Sportscore complexes, and many parks, playgrounds, and paths.

Rockford Park District

A Rockford-area drive to keep an iconic local attraction open this summer has reached its goal.

Faced with the news that the Rockford Park District was sidelining one of her favorite hometown attractions due to budget constraints, Rockford musical icon Jodi Beach decided to take action.

“Our first thought was, this can’t really be happening," Beach said.  "So we approached some people with the Park District and said, 'How can we help?' Of course the Park District loves the trolley; this isn't an us against them. We’re all on the same team.”

WNIJ/Victor Yehling

Rockford’s Sinnissippi Park is attracting teams of snow sculptors from across Illinois starting Wednesday. 

They're taking part in the 32nd Annual Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition. The Rockford Park District used snowmaking machines to ensure an adequate supply for competitors. They will have until Saturday to build the best sculpture they can out of a 6- by 6- by 10-foot block of snow.  Rockford Park District Spokeswoman Laura Gibbs-Green said teams’ tools are limited.

The Rockford Park District voted to ban smoking on most of its properties. 

State law already bans smoking within 50 feet of public buildings, but the Rockford Register Star reports violations on park property would impose a $125 fine for first time offenders.  That amount doubles to $250 for a consecutive offense, and $500 for a third offense. 

WNIJ/Victor Yehling

The annual Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition in Rockford has been postponed. That’s despite Rockford Park District efforts to bring in snow machines for the competition.

About 20 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for this type of event so sculptures can hold their shape and snow can stick around. However, the competition is expected to take place in Rockford’s Sinnissippi Park with temperatures as high as 45.

Phil Masterton / WNIJ

It has been years in the making, and Wednesday, June 1, 2016, it became official. The UW Health Sports Factory is open in downtown Rockford.

The massive recreational facility on the Rock River is expected to serve the needs of sports-minded residents as well as attract amateur sports tourism. The Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau held its annual luncheon at the Sports Factory, the building's inaugural event. About 700 people gathered in the $24-million facility for the official dedication.

Snow Sculptors Get A Start On Their Creations

Jan 27, 2016
WNIJ/Victor Yehling

The 2016 Illinois Snow Sculpting Contest finally got underway Wednesday along the roadways of Sinnissippi Park in Rockford. Lack of snow had delayed the start by a week.

Several teams took advantage of the comparatively warm mid-afternoon weather to work on their snow blocks, made from manufactured snow due to the lack of suitable precipitation.

The team names defy attempts to guess the origins. They include such monikers as Vikings in Black, Kilted Snow Weasels, Quatsch-Men, The Band of Misfit Boys, and the Slacktastic 4.

Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition / ilsnowsculpting.com

The Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition has been postponed for a week because there’s just not enough snow.

The annual event was scheduled to start next Thursday at Rockford’s Sinnissippi Park. The Rockford Park District usually hauls snow from the Chicago Rockford International Airport for sculptors to use: a spokesman says what little snow is there is too dirty and icy. The 30th annual competition will now take place Jan. 27th through 30th.

Rockford Park District

MercyRockford Health System has obtained naming rights for the Rockford Park District’s tournament complexes in Rockford and Loves Park.  In return, MercyRockford will pay the district $2 million over 10 years.   The facility in Rockford will be renamed MercyRockford Sportscore 1 and the Loves Park facility MercyRockford Sportscore 2.   

Artwork provided

The multi-purpose indoor athletic facility under construction in downtown Rockford got a financial boost and a new name Thursday, thanks to UW Health.

What originally was called the Downtown Sportscore now will be known as the UW Health Sports Factory.

The parent company of Rockford’s SwedishAmerican Health System will pay roughly $1.9 million over a 10-year period to have its name and logo emblazoned on the building and various associated materials.

Nicholas Conservatory

Rockford Park District officials recently dedicated the Eclipse Lagoon at the  Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens. The Conservatory just celebrated its first year in Rockford.  Since its opening, more than 50,000 people have walked through the doors.

Heat forces changes in park activities

Jun 28, 2012

Early closures and complete cancellations are among the changes implemented by the Rockford Park District due to the anticipated heat today and tomorrow. They include playground activities, a reduced golf tournament, and athletic programs for youth.

The park district is instituting mandatory cooling breaks every 15 to 20 minutes for anyone – including staff -- involved in any outdoor programs or activities. Camp and playground programs have planned more water activities, and are taking frequent rest breaks.

Windsor Lake will open to public this month

Jun 13, 2012

Windsor Lake in Loves Park will open to public recreation later this month under two agreements approved Tuesday by the Rockford Park District board.

Commissioners agreed to provide recreational services at the 12-acre private lake, located off North Alpine Road and Windsor Road in Loves Park, under a lease with Ed Carlson Sr. and family through Dec. 31, 2012.