The Grayslake Community Park District (GLPD) was established in 1959 by a local referendum. Many individuals and civic groups were instrumental in the successful passage of the referendum by campaigning for more recreational and leisure opportunities for local residents. The park district boundaries are nearly coterminous with Village of Grayslake boundaries and also include the eastern portion of the Village of Hainesville on the east side of Hainesville Rd. In its infancy, the park district focused primarily on providing recreational programs since it owned no parks or facilities. The Park Board immediately sought citizen feedback in helping to identify land acquisition opportunities and priorities. In 1965, the park district purchased Jones Island Park and they were up and running. Construction of a building at Jones Island at the corner of Alleghany and Harvey, along with a parking lot for the park across the street, soon followed. The building served as the administrative office for the district. Jaycee Park was acquired by the district a few years later and cooperative use agreements with local schools were also established to gain some additional programming space.
In the early 1970s, the district purchased the American Legion Building in downtown Grayslake and moved the majority of its programs into that building shortly afterward. Programming continued to expand and the district worked with local schools to help fund and create more sports and recreational spaces. A senior citizen group was one of the first activities created by the district and it continued to be a mainstay program for the district for many years. Numerous referendums for park development and improvements were sought after but were not successful in the district’s early years. In the late 1970s, the district was able to purchase a building on Lake Street which now serves as its park maintenance facility. Around this time, plans to acquire a portion of what is now Central Park began. The acquisition and development of what is now Central Park was incrementally completed through purchases, grants and developer donation funds over many years. Central Park is now 70 acres.
The 1980s saw an increase in housing developments within the Village. Nearly a half dozen developments were completed and the park district elected to receive cash in lieu of land donations at the time. During the latter part of the 1980s, parkland acquisition through the cash received from developers allowed for the purchase of what is now Cullen Park. This type of acquisition strategy enabled the district to incrementally increase its land inventory from 26 to 272 acres from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.
The 1990s saw an even more dramatic increase in the growth of the village. The population rose from 7,388 in 1990 to over 18,500 in 2000. Within that time period, over a dozen new residential developments were completed within Grayslake and Hainesville. The population in Hainesville alone rose from 134 in 1990 to over 2,000 in 2000. This tremendous growth also created a heavy demand on the park district to provide more open space and additional programs for the growing community. A significant number of neighborhood parks were developed during this time with assistance from developer contributions of land and cash and also from grants. Further coordination with local schools to utilize school facilities helped provide additional programming space. A number of referendums proposed to voters within this time period to levy for additional taxes and issue park bonds for development were unsuccessful. However, one referendum in the spring of 1999 did receive voter support. A proposition to levy and collect a tax in order to provide recreational programs for the handicapped passed. This successful referendum led to the district joining a special recreation association which is now the 7-member Special Recreation Association of Central Lake County.
Another noteworthy achievement within the Village of Grayslake during this time was the construction of the Village’s aquatic center in 2000. For many years before its creation, the district had explored ways of possibly constructing an outdoor pool complex. The lack of resources at the time, coupled with unsuccessful referendums, prohibited the park district from realizing this achievement. However, the Park District and Village worked together to establish a long term land lease for a portion of Central Park to enable the village to lease some property from the park district and build the outdoor pool complex. Although not a Park District facility, this project was a significant addition to the Village’s overall inventory of recreational facilities. The Park District did oversee the pool’s operations for a few years until the Village assumed those responsibilities. This cooperative arrangement displayed a shared vision of meeting the demands of a growing community.
Another significant addition to the Village’s recreational amenities was the development of the Grayslake Golf Course. Initially developed as Carillon Golf Course, the course was eventually turned over to the Park District for operations in 2000 and for perpetual maintenance in 2003 (through a developer donation agreement with Cambridge Homes who developed the Carillon North subdivision). The name of the course was changed to Grayslake Golf Course in 2008.
The 2000s continued to create challenges for the district to provide more open space and programs for the still growing community. One significant initiative the district identified and pursued was the acquisition of additional community park acreage. Central Park, now a 70 acre Community Park, had realized a tremendous increase in usage and demand. Another large community park was proposed to meet the growing demand and the needs of future programming space. In 2004, a voter referendum passed to issue park bonds to acquire 40 acres on Alleghany Road for a Community Park. An agreement with the seller to receive another 50 acres contiguous to the 40 acres through a donation and a minimal development process was also established, and the development of Alleghany Park began.
The continual demand for programming and office space also led the district to seek additional administrative and operational space. In 2007, the district issued bonds to acquire and remodel what is now its Recreation and Administrative Center on Commerce Drive. The district sold the former American Legion downtown building to the Village and that building was removed to make room for the Village’s Police Department and Village Hall expansion project. In the late 2000s, the district also opened up the 40 acre portion of Alleghany Park.
In 2010, the population of the park district had grown to over 22,000 residents. It also began the next phase of developing 20 additional acres of Alleghany Park. The eventual slowdown of residential growth enabled the district to actively examine its current inventory of over 420 acres of parkland and their overall conditions. As the majority of the district’s parks, especially the aging neighborhood parks, were developed within the last 20 years, it became evident that maintaining, replacing and updating its current inventory of park components and amenities would be a predominant focus for the district in the years to come. Thus the development of planning instruments began with the culmination of those efforts resulting in the development of the district’s Comprehensive Plan in 2015.