The latest subject of our “Great Parks!” series is located along the Fox River and has a lot to offer, whether you want to admire some public art during a summertime stroll or have an adventurous kid who likes to climb high above the earth! Contributor Dawn Santucci tells us what her family likes the most about this park.
Name and address/location of the park and what park system it belongs to:
Mt. St. Mary Park is part of the St. Charles Park District. It is located off Prairie Street on the west side of the Fox River. The entrance to the park can be a little tricky to find, it’s just east of Route 31 next to some autobody shops. You actually drive through the business parking lot before reaching the park’s parking lot, which is close to the playground.
Can you describe the playground? Anything special it offers?
Mt. St. Mary Park has so much to offer! The playground is not large, but what make it unique, and what kids love about it, are the VERY tall tunnel slides. There are two regular swings and two baby swings. There are also two ride-on toys. Outside of the playground, there are basketball and tennis courts, a skate park, canoe launch and fishing, walking/biking trails, and plenty of wide open space. It is a great place for a picnic, to play ball, or fly a kite.
The park is 29 acres (the land previously belonged to the Sisters of St. Dominic) with lots of mature trees and beautiful flowers (including an official arboretum) right along the Fox River. Mt. St. Mary Park is home to the annual Sculpture in the Park exhibit. Every May a new set of original and unique sculptures is placed around the 5/8-mile walking path that loops around the park. Some sculptures are sold, others become permanent; one of the favorite permanent sculptures to visit and take pictures with is “Humpty Dumpty” along Route 31. If you walk the whole path there is a small pond and waterfall with a nice bridge (this is also a nice spot for photos). There is a beautiful memorial in the middle of the park. And if you are into letterboxing my Girl Scout troop has hidden a letterbox somewhere in the park!
What type of playground surface? Cushion, mulch, sand, etc?
Is there a separate playground for toddlers?
Yes, there is a smaller play structure for toddlers.
Is there a paved trail or path good for walking or riding bikes and scooters?
Yes, Mt. St. Mary Park is a beautiful place to walk; there is a paved trail that loops around the exterior of the park (5/8 mile) where you can look at the sculptures (May through September). More people walk than bike this particular trail, but you could bike it. There is also a path along the river that you can take into downtown St. Charles (less than a mile walk). This one is more likely to have bikers on it. (Note: If you want to combine a visit to this park with a treat, you could use the riverfront path to walk to Kimmer’s Ice Cream or Blue Goose Supermarket, which are less than 1/2 mile from the park.)
What was your child’s favorite part of the park? Least favorite?
My kids get excited to see the sculptures each year (and they love visiting Humpty Dumpty), but their favorite thing about the playground is the tall slides. The only negative thing they’d say about the park is that the playground doesn’t offer much other than the one major play structure. The tall slides are cool, but there is not much else to the playground.
What was your favorite part? Least favorite?
My favorite is seeing the sculptures and walking the beautiful trail. It’s a beautiful place to sit and enjoy the scenery (if you can manage to do that with kids). I particularly enjoy the scenery in the fall when the leaves are changing. I also wish, like my kids, there was a little more to the playground itself.
Does it seem like a park that might be especially crowded at certain times of day?
Yes this park is always busy on a beautiful day, but it’s a huge park and I have never felt that one particular area felt too crowded at any one time, and I’ve been there a lot.
Are there public bathrooms?
There is a bathroom building with one female and one male toilet. There is no changing table in it.
Is there shade over the playground? Is there shade for a picnic?
There is not shade over most of the playground, but the perimeter of the playground has shade and you can find a bench or picnic table in the shade. Depending on the time of day, sometimes the ride-on toys are shaded. Because of how the main play structure is set up, shade is not particularly important. The interior of the slide climb will be shaded, and the tunnel slides do not get hot in the sun.
Are there picnic tables?
There are a couple of picnic tables near the playground (benches too). There is a picnic table on the west side of the tennis courts. There is also a large pavilion with many tables not too far from the park. On summer weekends, though, you might find it has been rented out for private use. There is plenty of space to place a picnic blanket!
What ages to you feel this park is best for?
It depends on how adventurous your child is. It took my daughter a long time to like the big tunnel slides (I think she was 7 when she was finally brave enough to try them), my son on the other hand started going on them at age 2 and loved them. There is a very small play structure for younger kids, as well as a few swings. There is also one slide in the main play structure that is a little smaller and not a tunnel. If your children enjoy nature, then this park is great for any age!
About the author: Dawn lives in St. Charles with her husband, 9 year old daughter, and 4 year old son.