Youth in the Parks
Ridgeville Park District offers a variety of programming for the community, including Youth in the Parks, a free summer drop-in program. (Ridgeville Park District photo)

Residents living in south Evanston may take advantage of summer camps, classes, a farmers market, a free concert series and community events offered by Ridgeville Park District, a public agency managing seven parks.

The park district is bordered by the North Shore Channel to the west, Chicago Avenue to the east, Greenleaf Street to the north and Howard Street to the south, but the events and programs offered by the district are not limited to the 10,000 households within its boundaries.

“Everybody’s welcome to come,” said Natalie Sallee, Program Director for Ridgeville Park District, at a March 1 Fourth Ward virtual meeting where she gave a presentation on the district and its opportunities for residents.

Opportunities for children include after-school programs, dance classes, sewing classes, arts and crafts workshops, and spring, summer and winter break camps. Adults may enroll in a language class, a Garden2Table program and a variety of fitness classes, including African dance and tap dance.

The park district’s free community events include concerts, a food truck festival, an outdoor theater and a soccer festival.

(Ridgeville Park District image)

The camps and classes offered by Ridgeville are “super affordable,” said Sallee. Ridgeville residents pay a lowered fee for classes, and the park district offers a scholarship program and a senior discount to further cut down costs.

Ridgeville Park District’s budget is financed through a property tax levied on land within the district’s boundaries. “We’re very small,” said Sallee. “We operate on less than a million dollars a year.” This is tiny in comparison with the Evanston city budget, she added.

Evanston residents established the park district in 1939 because they felt most of the city’s recreational activities were offered in North Evanston, Sallee said. They passed a referendum to allocate a portion of their property tax to create a park district independent of the city, she said.

The benefit to having a small park district is that events and classes are local, and costs remain low, particularly with the help of Ridgeville’s scholarship program, Sallee said.

“We try to do a whole lot with a little and I think we do a pretty great job with that,” she said.

Adina Keeling

Adina Keeling is a photojournalist and reporter, covering city news, sustainability, schools, and art. She also investigates mental health systems and environmental injustices in Evanston, and puts together...

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  1. They offer wonderful programming and increase the feeling of community in south Evanston. Thank you to Natalie and the rest of the RPD staff!