Park Name & Location: Hawks Hollow Nature Playground, located on the grounds of the Peck Farm Interpretive Center, 4038 Kaneville Road in Geneva. Phone: 630-262-822. The farm is located west of Randall Road, at the corner of Kaneville and Peck roads.
About: Hawks Hollow, which just opened in the fall of 2013, is designed to engage children in environmental learning. The play area features eight interactive learning stations featuring native bird, tree and bug species. There are a child-sized bird nest and beaver lodge, log beam balance course, mud wall canvas a wood stage, log seating, musical instruments, a pulley system and optic scopes for bird-watching. A multi-level treehouse has a spiral slide, climbing cargo nets and a “tree-top eagles nest overlook.” There also water features in the warmer months — a splash area and water in a “creek” that can be manipulated by building structures, moving rocks, etc.
Amenities: Peck Farm Interpretive Center has bathrooms in its nearby Orientation Barn, as well as a visitor’s center, observation silo, a 19-acre wetland and miles of nature and bike trails. You can download a map here.
Admission: Admission is free. Hawks Hollow is open to the public during regular park hours, from dawn until dusk. It is also available for birthday parties, plus school, scout and church groups. Call 630-262-8244 for more info.
Good For: I admit I’m an anxious type, and I got pretty nervous when my daughter was jumping between the (sharp, hard) rocks in the waterplay area, even though it was dry. Some of the drops off the “Raptor’s Roost” area are pretty high, too. So my personal recommendation would be that Hawks Hollow is good for ages 4 and up, although of course certain elements would appeal to (and be perfectly fine) for younger children.
Our Experience: We’d been eagerly awaiting the opening of Hawks Hollow — my daughter’s class did a field trip to Peck Farm shortly before it opened in the fall of 2013. But that opening weekend was cold and rainy, and of course then our everlong, frigid winter set it. So we finally got over to Hawks Hollow this month, on a cold and windy (but bearable) day, and my daughter (age 5) just loved it.
Like I noted, she spent a lot of her time jumping between the rocks in a creek area. I saw a button that looked similar to those you see at spraygrounds; I’m assuming once the weather warms a bit, kids can get water flowing into a splash area and into the creek. She clambered, climbed and ran all over the “Raptor’s Roost play structure,” tried out the balance beam area, and we had fun following the animal tracks in the concrete. If we were to meet friends there, I know she’d enjoy hiding and playing in the beaver lodge and bird nest and putting on a show on the stage. We didn’t see the mud wall canvas area, but I think on our second trip, we’ll be better equipped to take it all in.
The Takeaway: Hawks Hollow Nature Playground was named the 2014 Outstanding Facility by the Illinois Park and Recreation Center. It’s easy to see why — the playground is unique and fun, and as the Geneva Park District says, it “aims to get children using their imaginations and senses to experience the smells, textures and wonders of the natural world.”
When the award was announced, Sheavoun Lambillotte, executive director of the Geneva Park District, said: “Our goal with Hawks Hollow is to help children rediscover those simple pleasures — getting a little dirty, a little wet, a little creative, and learning something along the way. This award recognizes the importance of reconnecting with the childhood instinct to get outside and play.”
So add Hawks Hollow to your to-do list for a sunny day this spring or summer. You won’t regret it!
Note: Find more photos from our visit to Hawks Hollow in this Go West Flickr album.