SYCAMORE – Despite temperatures near 40 degrees and no snow, the Sycamore Park District hosted a free winter community event Sunday.
The inaugural Winter Family Play Day took place at the Sycamore Park District’s Legacy Campus and Community Center in Sycamore and featured a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony for the recently completed Northwestern Medicine Sled Hill.
The event also included three dog sled demonstrations by Free Spirit Siberian Rescue, hands-on experiments and activities courtesy of the Midwest Museum of Natural History, a free winter movie showing, marshmallow roasting and hot chocolate.
Heather Krupa of DeKalb took her 10-year-old daughter, Katie, to the event to see one of the sled dog demonstrations.
“She absolutely loves dogs, but she’s allergic to them,” Heather Krupa said. “We’ve been reading stories about the Iditarod and dog sled teams, so she was excited to come. Even though she’s allergic to dogs, she doesn’t care. She may be itchy and sneezy later, though.”
Sycamore Park District Executive Director Daniel Gibble said the new sled hill and splash pad are the two features that “will probably have the most impact on the children of the community.”
“We look forward to all of the winter fun to be had on the hill once it snows,” Gibble said. “The sled hill is as close to a mountain that we can get in Sycamore.”
Gibble said the sled hill, with an almost 30-degree slope and a 36-foot-tall peak, is the second-highest location in Sycamore, the first being Fox Pointe.
The sled hill cost about $120,000 and was made possible with the help of Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital. The hill features a lamppost at the top to keep the slope illuminated when the community center is open until 9 p.m. daily. The hill also has a fire pit for warming up, heated stairs to the top and is handicapped-accessible through the community center.
The sled hill is the fourth sledding location in Sycamore’s history. The first was a hill in the 1920s by the DeKalb County Courthouse. West Exchange Street often would be closed for sledders.
In the 1940s, the second hill was a wooden sled chute built by the Elks Club at Sycamore Park. The third, another wooden sled chute, was built in the Park District’s sports annex, but was dismantled in the 1980s.
Sarah Rex, the park district’s recreation and marketing supervisor, said the sled hill was one of the city’s Action 2020 projects.
Other projects included the splash pad, the community center, a Great Western Trail expansion, a dog park, a golf course irrigation system and a sports complex expansion.
“When asked, everyone wanted a sled hill,” Rex said. “What’s great about it is that it’s free. Adults can join in and sled and be kids again. Everyone can forget the cold and enjoy the outdoors.”
Amy Kunigonis of DeKalb attended the event with her 4-year-old daughter, Mary.
“We came because she loves dogs, and it sounded like a fun event to get us out of the house,” Amy Kunigonis said. “I can’t wait to come back when there’s snow and go sledding.”