New Tots Play Area Coming to Rock River Recreation Path

Rockford Park District team members, Rockford Park District Foundation members, and representatives from Kiwanis Club of Rockford dug into what will eventually be a new place for youth to explore along the Rock River Recreation Path.

Tot Playground Rendering FullDigging dirt symbolized the start of construction for the Tots Play Area, the first phase of a new Children’s Exploration Station. Since the fall of 2015, the Park District has been working to develop an overall master plan for Sinnissippi Riverfront Park, which includes improvements to the existing Rose Garden and Perennial Garden, and developing a new Children’s Exploration Station. The Children’s Exploration Station will be located adjacent to the Symbol parking lot, and south of the Symbol sculpture. The Children’s Exploration Station will feature unique and non-traditional play spaces, and educational opportunities, for Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens visitors and recreation path users.

The concept plan for the Children’s Exploration Station includes:

  • Tots Play Area (2- to 5-year-olds)
  • Big Kids Play Area (5- to 12-year-olds)
  • Sensory Garden
  • Water Play Area
  • Restroom and Picnic Building
  • Trolley Stop
  • Pathways and Expanded Parking

Overall costs anticipated for the Children’s Exploration Station are $600,000-$700,000, and will be developed in phases. Thanks to the Kiwanis Club of Rockford’s generous donation of $125,000 to the Rockford Park District Foundation, the Tots Play Area will be constructed first (see above photo.) The Tots Play Area includes a playground with equipment intended for ages 2 to 5, along with some playground surfacing with a river theme, and new concrete paths.

Tot Playground Groundbreaking“The donation from the Kiwanis Club of Rockford will enhance and strengthen our beautiful riverfront. The Rock River is our community’s most prominent natural resource, an excellent recreational asset, and a popular year‐round community gathering place,” said Lori Berkes-Nelson, Rockford Park District Foundation Director.

Chartered on January 20, 1917, the Kiwanis Club of Rockford is one of the oldest Kiwanis clubs in the world. “Kiwanis Club of Rockford is dedicated to assisting children locally and worldwide. Our members have provided countless hours of service to children of our community and the world, and have distributed over one million dollars to youth organizations in the Rockford and surrounding areas. We specifically picked this project to celebrate our 100-year history, and thought the riverfront area was the perfect place to build a tot playground and make life better for the children of our community,” said Bryce Russell, Kiwanis Club of Rockford President. The Rockford Park District Foundation will continue to raise funds for future phases of the Children’s Exploration Station. Tots Play Area Build Day Construction of the Tots Play Area will take place on May 13, 2017 beginning at 8 a.m., rain or shine thanks to help from Kids Around the World and Kiwanis Club of Rockford. Additional volunteers are still needed. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Rockford Park District Volunteer Coordinator Jan Davis at 815-987-8847 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About Kiwanis Club of Rockford

Kiwanis Club of Rockford is an organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time. The Kiwanis Club of Rockford is a non-profit organization of service-minded volunteers whose purpose is to improve the quality of life for the children it serves by fostering their academic success and character development. If anyone would like more about Kiwanis Club of Rockford contact Bryce Russell at 815-398-7455 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About Rockford Park District Foundation

To secure philanthropic support to the Rockford Park District, the Foundation was founded in 1979, and at that time primarily worked to acquire needed land via donations or to sell donated land that was not needed for park space. Over the years, the Foundation’s focus changed to fit the needs of a rapidly growing Rockford Park District. The Foundation receives monetary, land, and various other donations on behalf of the Park District, and administers the donations to ensure the donor’s intent is fulfilled. To date, more than $45 million has been raised, thanks to the generosity of friends and donors of the Rockford Park District Foundation. Donations received over the years have enabled the Foundation to achieve its mission of assisting the Rockford Park District in its pursuit of a quality park and recreation system to help people in our community enjoy life.

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