Hitchcock Design Group
Bowen Park; Waukegan, Illinois

Client:  Waukegan Park District
Engineers:  Hey & Associates, Inc.; Primera Engineers, Ltd.; McCluskey Engineering Corporation
Category:  Public

Parks should encourage active and passive experiences, enabling people to gather and enjoy the outdoors, no matter the age. Bowen Park has now become a true jewel for the Waukegan Park District due to the creation of a master plan to revitalize its existing park facility. This unique play environment offers both children and their families an opportunity to learn through play as they explore the park's natural surroundings.

The park's improvements provide a place to foster a respect for nature and life-long stewardship habits. Working with a heavily wooded site, the landscape architect focused on maintaining the park's unique character by capitalizing on more than 25 feet of grade change and significant existing trees. The multi-level play environment creates an outdoor place with activities that are both fun and educational. The improvements give visitors the experience of being in the tree canopy within the "Forest Tower" and features an elevated bridge system and "Owl Overlook."

Physical challenges for park visitors include the 25-foot high "Spider Net" climber, "Fallen Log" balance beams and a two-story root slide along with a senior fitness trail that surrounds the play area. Learning and play go hand-in-hand in the "Fungi Spray" area with educational signage, and an outdoor classroom for school and park district programming provides more guided learning opportunities.

Adding to the unusual nature of the park, nearly all play equipment and site amenities were custom-designed for Bowen Park based on the landscape architect's conceptual drawings. Thought was given to each area and play element to maximize interpretation opportunities and explored as a place to reinforce the "Forest Findings" theme. The landscape architect worked closely with play equipment manufacturers, concrete contractors and shot-crete specialists to create unique structures and detailed spaces.