I had only known of Lippold Park as a sign we passed on the way to Red Oak Nature Center. But then a friend told me a cool new nature-based playground had been installed, so I scheduled a playdate there in early July to check it out. We weren’t disappointed!
Park Name and Location: Lippold Park Natural Area is located on Route 25, north of Route 56 and 1/2 mile north of the Red Oak Nature Center. It is a public park owned and operated by the Fox Valley Park District. It doesn’t show up on Google Maps, and the Fox Valley Park District doesn’t provide a town for it, so I’m not sure if it is technically located in North Aurora or Batavia!
About: Lippold Park encompasses 30 acres tucked between the Fox River and Route 25. In 2011, the Fox Valley Park District was awarded a $400,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for improvements and upgrades. According to the “Parks in Progress” section of the Fox Valley Park District’s website, Phase II is underway to turn this site into an “outdoor educational venue.” That said, the park is already worth a visit!
Amenities: Lippold Park has a shelter, amphitheater-style seating around a fire pit, a nature-themed playground with a “treehouse” feel, and a boardwalk path winding through a pond and wetlands leading to the banks of the Fox River. The playground features a climbing wall, climbing net, a rope walk, ramps, tree stump chairs and a wigwam. There is also a half-mile paved looping trail that connects to the Fox River Trail. Update: Reader Jenny says she visited in August of 2016, and this park now has a port-a-potty!
Good For: The play structure at Lippold Park is not as large, developed or as varied as Hawks Hollow Nature Playground in Geneva, but it is definitely similar in its “unstructured” feel and relatively high climbing areas. For that reason, this play area is probably best for children ages 4 and up. And of course the lack of a bathroom means this is not a good spot for families in the potty-training stage!
Our Experience: Eager to check out a park that we had never visited, I scheduled a playdate at Lippold Park in early July. My daughter, nearly age 6, and my friends’ kids, ages 6 and 4, of course wanted to test out the play area, but first we ate our picnic lunches sitting on the rock stone ledges ringing the fire pit.
And then they were off! The kids kept running “circuits” — sprinting up the wooden ramp or clambering up the climbing wall or climbing nets and then through the rope bridge, which is similar to walking a tight rope — just with cargo nets on either side to grab onto. The girls handled the area fine, but the climb on the nets and rock wall was somewhat precarious for my son’s 4-year-old boy, and eventually she encouraged him to use the ramp to get up. The kids also had a great time playing house in the wigwam.
Eventually, a large group of tweens arrived at the park with their summer camp counselors. The scene started getting a little “Lord of the Flies” for our tastes (ha!) so we decided to explore the rest of the park. We strolled (well, the adults strolled) along a new boardwalk area that leads through the wetlands right up to the Fox River. We saw some interesting insects and beautiful flowers, and our kids watched as a couple of older boys tried to catch a frog. It was an awesome place to take photos.
By the time we returned from the river, the summer camp groups had departed on buses, and our kids played for another session on the playground. We spent a happy two-plus hours at Lippold Park and will certainly go back.
The Takeaway: If your family likes the “unstructured” feel of place like Hawks Hollow Nature Playground in Geneva, or getting up close and personal to the Fox River, you will enjoy Lippold Park. And when the final phase of the improvements are completed, I’ll post an update — hopefully those improvements will include bathrooms!
For More Photos from Lippold Park, see below and also check out this Go West photo album on Flickr.