Photo by Diane Cox
Charlie Booten, 3, of Alton went fishing with his family at a pond at Glazebrook Park. The pond is stocked twice per year to keep a healthy population of fish available for anglers.
Recently, an out-of-state resident visited the area and was immediately struck by the number of parks and landmarks at his disposal, without having to cross the river into Missouri at all.
“This area has it all,” he said.
We could not agree more. Our region is extremely fortunate to get the best of both worlds — all of the comforts of city living while being surrounded by the best nature has to offer: lakes and ponds, trees and plenty of wildlife, along with any number of fields and diamonds for sporting events of all kinds.
Our parks and recreational areas have been a strong foundation for everything the Riverbend and surrounding communities have to offer. Whether looking for a place to play or watch a game of softball, somewhere to take the kids on a Sunday afternoon, or even just a picnic spot, the perfect locale is just minutes away. With this special issue of AdVantage News, we are giving you a taste of what makes our area so special.
This spotlight is by no means comprehensive; there are literally dozens of fantastic spots throughout our area, and limited space simply keeps us from touching on them all (hmmm, sounds like a need for a “parks spotlight, part two,” perhaps?)
So take a few minutes to check out what our area has to offer and start making your summer plans!
Photo by Diane Cox
New attractions are expected to be in place in the near future. Membership fees are put directly back into the park for frequent improvements and maintenance.
Alton Dog Park
One of the newer parks for the area is the Alton Dog Park.
Still a concept in 2011, the segregated park for canines became a reality for pet owners in 2014, providing a space for small and large dogs to run and play in a safe environment.
“We worked with dog advocates to develop a dog park in a great location to allow room for them to socialize, run and play,” Alton Park and Recreation Director Michael Haynes said. “We felt the Russell Commons Park provided a great space for the dogs to roam. Once we got the fencing up, we were able to get it going quickly.”
A year membership fee or day pass can be purchased from Alton City Hall or Alton Marina for $25 for residents and $35 for non-residents. A $5 day pass also can be purchased for one-time visitors.
New projects are under way, including picnic tables, shade trees and perhaps a water attraction could soon be in the works for a new doggie station.
When a membership is purchased, the pet owner is given an access code to enter the property. The code is changed from time to time and members are notified. Park hours are from sunrise to sunset, seven days per week.
The Alton Park and Recreation Department started an Alton Dog Park Facebook page to answer questions and communicate information to the public. Park visitors are invited to post photos of their experiences at the park.
Photo by Diane Cox
Wood River resident Dale Noble spends a quiet afternoon fishing at the man-made pond at the Robert E. Lee Belk Park. He has enjoyed the fishing spot for nearly 25 years since moving to Wood River.
Prior to his death in December 1951, Robert E. Lee Belk envisioned his 234-acre farm on Rock Hill Road as a place of peace and recreation for Wood River residents. He made it possible by leaving the land to the city in his will.
As a part of his final requests, Belk asked that the park be named Belk Memorial Park and be marked with a plaque in honor of the family.
As Belk Park took form in the 1950s, a large man-made lake was constructed and stocked with fish. Four pavilions with three playgrounds and three restroom facilities were built to accommodate guests. Now, Wood River is building a one-mile asphalt walk/run path, slated to be completed by July.
Part of the new path will cross a bridge over the large pond with deck areas for those who choose to fish from the bridge, giving anglers an opportunity to fish different parts of the pond.
“The trail is going to be about 10 feet wide,” Wood River Director of Parks and Recreation Jason Woody said. “It will be made of asphalt with the exception of the bridge. The bridge will also be 10 feet in width and about 150 feet in length and will span across the lake.”
In addition to the park, pavilion and pond is the Belk Park Golf course. Offering an 18-hole championship course, the property encompasses a driving range, a large gazebo and clubhouse with a nice-sized multipurpose room with seating for 168 available for rent. Hours are 6:30 a.m. until dark Monday to Sunday.
For information, call (618) 251-3130 or visit woodriver.org.
Photo by Theo Tate
Randall D. Dalton Veterans Park in Pontoon Beach was named after a Collinsville resident killed during the Vietnam War.
Randall D. Dalton Veterans Park
In 1971, Collinsville resident Randall D. Dalton was killed in action during the Vietnam War.
Forty years later, Pontoon Beach officials decided to name the park after the fallen soldier. It’s called Randall D. Dalton Veterans Park and was established in honor of all veterans, living or deceased, of all wars and conflicts since World War I. Dalton was 20 when he died.
The park is behind the Bank of Edwardsville branch at 5111 Illinois 111. Construction of the park was funded through a state grant and private donations. The park’s main features include the Veteran’s Monument, flags and two fallen soldier statues.
The park also is used for events, including the annual Party at the Beach. The festival began in 2012 and had guest performances from musical groups such as the Little River Band in 2014 and the Charlie Daniels Band.
For information, call Pontoon Beach Village Hall at (618) 931-6100.
Photo by Diane Cox
Zoey Edwards, 4, of Alton and Faith Wock, 6, of Delhi take to the swings on a nice spring afternoon. The two girls met at the park and played in the warm sunshine.
Godfrey’s Glazebrook Park provides visitors seeking an active lifestyle opportunities to put their bodies to the test while indulging nature seekers with a calm environment to soothe the senses.
“We have so many things to offer visitors and guests at Glazebrook Park,” Godfrey Parks and Recreation Director Kimberly Caughran said. “From the Fourth of July Family Fun Fest to the Great Godfrey Corn Maze, Glazebrook offers something for every member of the community and can satisfy every range of age.”
On June 5, Bark in the Park will kick off the summer events. Summer Family Movie Nights, sponsored by Liberty Bank, begin in June and run through August on the second Friday of the month. The Fourth of July Family Fun Fest will begin at 5 p.m., with fireworks at 9:15 p.m.
“We are very proud of the Fourth of July celebration,” Caughran said. “The event draws a large crowd each year and the fireworks display is one of the best in the area. It lasts roughly 15 to 20 minutes and it’s one of the few in the area that actually takes place on the Fourth.”
The Godfrey Corn Maze has been a staple, featuring a special theme announced yearly at the Fourth of July Festival. A 200-yard zipline also has been added.
The soccer fields and baseball diamond offer yearly programs and leagues during spring, summer and fall seasons. Families can bike or walk the trails with their pets while anglers can fish at two ponds.
The park was constructed in 1999 through a state land acquisition grant from Norma Glazebrook. As the state paid half to the Glazebrook family, the village’s portion of cost was donated back into the park fund by Glazebrook.
“This park wouldn’t be possible without Norma Glazebrook,” Caughran said. “The money she donated back allowed for the concession stand, shelters, roads and the start of the corn maze.”
Park hours are sunrise to sunset throughout the year. Anyone interested in renting shelters and pavilions can call (618) 466-1483.
Photo by James Moss
One of the stocked lakes at Joe Glik Park, including a concrete fishing deck.
Joe Glik Park
Joe Glik Park, named after an owner of Glik’s department stores, is the newest park property in Edwardsville.
The 42-acre park was purchased in 2000 through a donation by Joe Glik, who helped raise funds and donated trees for the park, and two Illinois Department of Natural Resources grants.
The park offers numerous services to guests, such as pavilions, a 2,500-foot Americans with Disabilities Act-approved walking trail, the only off-leash area for dogs in the city, two stocked fishing lakes and a playground.
“We have a very nice playground out there,” Katie Grable, assistant director of parks and recreation for the city of Edwardsville, said.
She said the city has installed more of the rubber safety surface on the playground, which also is ADA-approved.
Grable said the city plans to add another entrance and extra parking to the park. This would allow them to hold more events in the park and accommodate more visitors.
Even with these plans to improve, Grable said the park already offers a nice place for visitors.
“It’s just a nice park all around,” Grable said. “It’s a very tranquil place.”
The park is at 710 E. Lake Drive in Edwardsville.
LaVista Park is a well-kept secret Godfrey Director of Parks and Recreation Kimberly Caughran would like to spread around.
“LaVista is considered a passive recreation area,” Caughran said. “The park has a lot of scenic forest areas that provide a quiet atmosphere. Unlike Glazebook, you won’t find soccer fields or baseball diamonds. LaVista is a great place for challenging trails down the bluffs that provide a fantastic scenic view year-round.”
LaVista provides amenities such as the Discovery Garden, a cyclocross trail where bikers can do off-road riding, and a half-mile trail from Illinois 3 to the Iroquois Trail, continuing to the Vadalabene Trail and coming to a rest at the scenic River Road.
Recently, the park was renamed LaVista at Gladys Levis Allen Park after Gladys Levis-Allen, a philanthropist who served as the founding president of the Great Rivers Land Trust. That organization also is providing a new sign for the park’s entrance.
LaVista’s hours extend from sunrise to sunset year-around, providing a seasonal experience for nature photographers and wildlife watchers. For information, visit the park’s Facebook page.
Photo by Theo Tate
Members of the color guard march during the Granite City Veterans Day Celebration on Nov. 11 at Memorial Park.
Memorial Park, Granite City
Memorial Park became the Granite City’s first park 95 years ago.
Today, the one-acre park at 21st and Madison Avenue is the place for all of the Memorial Day and Veterans Day services every year. Memorial Park has a big statue of names of residents who served the U.S. military in all wars and conflict since World War I. The statue was dedicated on May 29, 1989.
The park includes a fountain to commemorate all of the members who served in the armed forces. It was created in 1961 by the Granite City War Memorial Association.
In 1921, the Granite City Park District was formed as a result of a special election. The first taxes collected were approximately $5,000.
Memorial Park was built in 1921 as a memorial to war veterans. It was purchased by the park district for $6,500 and was donated by the Niedringhaus family, which founded Granite City in 1896.
For information, contact the park district at (618) 877-3059.
Photo by Diane Cox
Taylor Sanders, 16, of East Alton; Raigen Swick, 19, of Alton; and Kayleigh McEuen, 17, of Alton, enjoy a snack and conversation on a sunny afternoon at Riverview Park in Alton. The three meet together at the park because it’s quiet and they love the view.
Alton’s historic Riverview Park offers one of the most gorgeous scenic views of the Mississippi River in Greater Alton.
Featuring a bandstand and nearly 100-year-old gazebo, the park has become a wedding venue that normally is booked one year in advance.
“People really love the view that Riverview Park has to offer,” Alton Parks and Recreation Director Michael Haynes said. “We recently cleared the bluff side of the park and the river is in plain view, making it a great location for outdoor events. We constantly have people calling in wanting to reserve the area for a wedding and reception.”
Recent renovations include the restrooms, a new roof and new Americans with Disabilities Act-approved sidewalks. One popular asset is a tall staircase that links Belleview Avenue with the park’s upper section.
“We are currently working on the wall and staircase (that links Belleview Avenue with the park),” Haynes said. “Over time and with all the wet weather we’ve had, the wall connected to the staircase is cracked and eroding. We are rebuilding the wall and fixing the issues. The stairs have been a huge attraction for high school seniors during senior photo sessions over the years.”
Beginning on June 9, the Muny Band will perform at 7 p.m. Thursdays during free concerts in the park.
For information on the band’s performances, call (618) 465-6676; for park information, call (618) 463-3580.
Photo by James Moss
Rock Spring Park
Passersby may have noticed recent construction around the entrance to Rock Spring Park. The work represents just one of the many improvements at the 87-acre park.
“The park, over the last couple of years, has been going through significant transformation,” Greg Gelzinnis, chairman of the Rock Spring 2020 revitalization committee, said.
Once a popular family spot, the park fell into disrepair and became notorious for crime and drug activity. A concerted effort by citizens and the city to clean up the area has played a major role in the park’s turnaround.
Each year, the Grandpa Gang works diligently to put together one of the city’s most popular and anticipated events, Christmas Wonderland. The holiday season is alive and well at the park, with more than 2.5 million lights creating a twinkling display of waterfalls, animals, cartoon characters and more.
In addition to the construction around the main entrance, Gelzinnis said his group has partnered with students to clean up the park, which includes removing invasive species. The park has also begun repairing the waterfall near the entrance.
“There is much more work to do,” Gelzinnis said. “It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint, but we’ve started running the race.”
With the improvements made to the park, Gelzinnis has advice for visitors.
“If they haven’t been to the park for many years, I would strongly encourage them to come with an eye for the improvements that have been done, as a well as a visional eye for what is yet to come,” he said.
The park is open at daylight and closes at dusk.
Nan Elliot Memorial Rose Garden at Gordon Moore Park
Serving as the central focal point for Gordon F. Moore Park, the Nan Elliot Memorial Rose Garden was dedicated June 15, 1980. Covering nearly one acre, the garden is filled with some 1,600 rose bushes of 150 varieties.
“The Rose Garden is as popular today as it’s ever been,” Alton Parks and Recreation Director Michael Haynes said. “From June to September, the roses are all in bloom and create a beautiful scent throughout the park. The Rose Garden gets booked very quickly for weddings from spring until fall, and it is popular spot for photographers.
“Parents will often take their kids to the park to play and stop off at the rose garden to see the flowers. A lot of work goes into maintaining the garden; it’s been a staple for nearly four decades and is the jewel of the park.”
The garden can be reserved and rented for events such as reunions, weddings or other special occasions by calling the Alton Park and Recreation Department at (618) 463-3580.
Also at the park, Carillon Concerts have begun and will continue each week through September. At 5 p.m. every Sunday, musicians perform a free concert consisting of show tunes, big band, gospel and more. Guests can bring lawn chairs or sit in their vehicles to enjoy the show.
Park hours are sunrise to sunset year-round.
Photo by Diane Cox
Children take in the warmer temperatures at the park. Zachary Knoblauch, a 2016 EA-WR graduate, visits with former classmates Brooklyn Sims and Malena Brumley.
The Round House
In a literal sense, Round House Recreation Center — or, as it is more commonly known, The Round House — is often the center of activity in Wood River.
In addition to housing the city’s recreational offices, The Round House is adjacent to the five-acre Central Park and the famous Aquatic Center. This area hosts many events each year, including Easter egg hunts, a summer camp, a triathlon, ice cream socials, a Halloween party and breakfast with Santa.
“We do a lot of stuff here,” Wood River Director of Parks and Recreation Jason Woody said.
In addition to public events, people also can rent the facility for private affairs. The cost varies based on time span and whether the person is a city resident. Woody said people commonly rent the facility for events such as wedding receptions, bridal showers and baby showers.
“It’s a wonderful facility for a family reunion,” he said.
Central Park features a bandstand, playground, gazebo, Veteran’s Memorial and barbecue pits. Woody said the city does not plan to make major changes to the park in the near future.
“It’s been upgraded enough that it’s in pretty good shape,” he said. “It’s just a good park for anybody to use.”
The Round House is located at 633 N. Wood River Ave.
New sports park one step closer
The city of Edwardsville has announced the Metro East Park and Recreational District has designated $300,000 for the city’s new sports park.
The money will be applied toward land acquisition totaling 70 acres at Goshen Road near the Interstate 55 corridor.
Plummer Family Park is being developed to accommodate growing demand in the region for recreational space and will include state-of-the-art features. It is one of three parks being developed as part of the A Better Place to Play Campaign, which aims to raise money and awareness for recreational projects. Other projects include an ice rink/teen center and a splash pad at Leon Corlew Park.
Plummer Family Park will provide multiple fields for baseball, softball and soccer, tennis and pickleball courts, concessions and restrooms.
The first of its kind in Illinois, the Metro East park district was formed by voters in November 2000 and is responsible for the development of trails and trail facilities in Madison and St. Clair counties.
For information, call Edwardsville Parks and Recreation at (618) 692-7538.
Biking and hiking trails
Horseshoe Lake State Park
Horseshoe Lake State Park, 3321 Illinois 111 in Granite City, has four miles of trails on Walker Island for hiking and bird-watching. The park is listed on the National Audubon Society’s Great River Birding Trail.
Hikers can expect a level walk with views of the natural oxbow lake.
Access to the trails is off Illinois 111 south of Horseshoe Lake Road.
There is no entry fee for the park. For information, visit ht.ly/4nthmL or call (618) 931-0270.
The northern trailhead is just south of the intersection of New Poag Road and North University Drive. Before you go, download a map at gorctrails.com/trails/siue-trails.
More than 9 miles of dirt paths are accessible for hiking and mountain biking. The trails traverse forested hills and small creeks, making for moderately difficult to easy walking. Rain turns the trails muddy.
The Nature Institute
The Nature Institute, 2213 S. Levis Lane in Godfrey, offers 6 miles of trails in the Olin Nature Preserve and the Mississippi Sanctuary.
The trails go through mature hardwood forests and along a creek. A highlight is Beaver Falls at the end of one of the preserve’s trails.
There is no charge to walk on the trails and they’re open year-round.
For information, visit thenatureinstitute.org or call (618) 466-9930.
Watershed Nature Center
Watershed Nature Center, 1591 Tower Road in Edwardsville, features paved walking trails and a raised marsh walk. The one-mile trail takes visitors through prairie, upland and lowland forests, and wetlands.
The grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk and there’s no charge for hiking.
For information, visit watershednaturecenter.org or call (618) 692-7578.
Madison County Transit turned former railroad rights-of-way into interconnected paths for walking, cycling and roller-blading. The system comprises seven loops of distances from 10 to 31 miles. Trails go north to Pere Marquette State Park, west as far as New Douglas and south into Granite City and Madison.
For information and to download maps, visit mcttrails.org or call (618) 797-4600.
Photo by Theo Tate
At 75 acres, Wilson Park is the largest park in the Granite City Park District.
In 1923, the Granite City Park District decided to build another park.
Just two years after Memorial Park was built, Wilson Park became the district’s second park and was opened to the public on June 1, 1923. The park named after President Woodrow Wilson, who served from 1913 to 1921. The park district was formed in Wilson’s last year in the White House.
With 75 acres, Wilson Park, 2900 Benton St., is the district’s largest park. It has one lighted softball field, seven baseball fields, six tennis courts, a playground, a swimming pool, a fitness trail, a basketball court, an outdoor centennial pavilion, eight picnic shelters and an ice rink.
Last year, the district also purchased a $97,000 ice resurfacer for the ice rink through a grant from the Madison County Park Enhancement Program. The district also purchased new bleachers.
On Oct. 21, during a meeting of the Madison County Board, Chairman Alan J. Dunstan recognized the district for its improvement projects at the ice rink.
Park district Director Dave Williams said the Park Enhancement Program grant was helpful.
“It’s fantastic,” Williams said. “We have done a lot of projects.”
Wilson Park also has several events, including the Patriots in the Park festival, which is scheduled on the week of Independence Day.
For information, contact the park district at (618) 877-3059.
James Moss, Diane Cox, Theo Tate, Fred Pollard and Jason White contributed to this special edition of AdVantage News.