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Crystal Lake, LITH talk about land annexation for potential aquatic center

Joshua Szeszol, 15, of Huntley does a belly flop as he jumps into the pool June 18, 2012, at the Stingray Bay Family Aquatic Center in Huntley.
Joshua Szeszol, 15, of Huntley does a belly flop as he jumps into the pool June 18, 2012, at the Stingray Bay Family Aquatic Center in Huntley.

Two of the county's largest communities, that don't have publicly-funded swimming pools, are working towards an aquatic solution that could serve both Crystal Lake and Lake in the Hills.

The Crystal Lake Park District is in discussions with Lake in the Hills about annexing 27 acres of unincorporated land, which the park district might earmark for an aquatic center.

Efforts in the past by the park district to get approval to build a community pool, or even find a location for one, have failed.

Within the Lake in the Hills village limits are limited aquatic features, such as the splash pad at Sunset Park.

The Crystal Lake Park District plans to buy the property, which is the the former Crystal Highlands Golf Course at 8917 Ackman Road, and potentially build a community recreation center and swimming facility sometime in the future. However, there currently is no development plan for the property.

Whether an aquatic center is built is still up in the air, but a new pool or aquatic center would add to the variety of recreational opportunities and areas already in the county. Residents in communities with pools are the overwhelming users of those facilities. Nonresidents make up a smaller fraction of pool passes sold.

In Crystal Lake, the roughly 40,500 residents have access to both Main Beach and West Beach, which are run by the park district, and the Three Oaks Recreation Area, which is run by the city.

Crystal Lake Park District Executive Director Jason Herbster said even though Main Beach and Three Oaks Recreational Center already are available to residents, there might be a need for an aquatic center.

"There's some people who don't like to swim in natural bodies of water. There's people who are either beach people or pool people," Herbster said. "That's something we hear a lot, 'I don't want to swim in the lake, I don't want my kids swimming in the lake.' ... A lot of people prefer pools.

"There's a lot of people who are coming up to this community from other areas who have had swimming pools and kind of expect it," Herbster added. "The closest pools to here are Huntley and Woodstock. To have an outdoor swimming pool in this community certainly wouldn't be a bad thing."

At Three Oaks Recreation Area, 60,210 people used the beach area of the park in 2013, said Eric Helm, deputy city manager of Crystal Lake. The number is not recorded on a resident and nonresident basis because admission and cost policies make it difficult to track.

Many annual events that bring people from out of county and state contribute to the number, making it more of a destination compared to other county outdoor aquatic parks. 

As a whole, Three Oaks Recreation Area attracted 88,232 people last year.

According to numbers from the Crystal Lake Park District, some beach usage has declined year to year. 

Revenue generated from combined season beach passes to residents and non-residents fell nearly $2,000 between 2012 and 2013 – from $11,283 to $9,360.

Daily beach passes also dropped at both Main and West Beach. Daily pass revenue fell from $61,682 to $52,075 at Main Beach and from $6,892 to $4,069 at West Beach. 

While that revenue fell, park district officials said beach usage figures did not include numbers for swim lessons, group reservations, field trip admissions, park district camp numbers and people who come in for boat rentals or boating lessons.

Lake in the Hills Village Administrator Gerald Sagona said at a recent Village Board meeting, the village doesn't have consistency in parks and recreation services when it comes to aquatic features. That would be one area where an aquatic center could be a benefit to the village.

Only part of the village, which has the population of about 29,000 people, is in the Huntley Park District, which has Stingray Bay.

Sagona added, having an aquatic center or recreation center at that property can help drive traffic to the area and potentially benefit commercial developers.

Sagona said under the draft annexation agreement, if a facility is built, the park district would provide a special Lake in the Hills user fee in between a lower resident fee and a higher non-resident fee.

An aquatic or recreation facility would be the first piece of park district equipment in the village, Sagona said.

Currently, Lake in the Hills has a splash pad for youngsters to use at Sunset Park. The village also sells passes for people to go swimming at its two beaches on the east side of town.

Trudy Wakeman is the Parks and Recreation director for Lake in the Hills. She has lived and worked in communities that have aquatic centers.

She said there would be a benefit if the Crystal Lake Park District built an aquatic center.

"Anything that will enhance the experience in [residents'] neighborhoods has to be a positive," Wakeman said.

Even though not every community has a pool, youngsters are able to learn how to swim whether it's in a pool, lake or pond, Wakeman said.

In Algonquin, more than 90 percent of its season passes are sold to residents. Small portion of the passes go to Lake in the Hills residents and people from other communities.

In 2012, Algonquin started a neighborly rate program, which offers discounts from the non-resident rate for season pass members who reside outside of Algonquin, according to an email from Assistant to the Village Manager Mike Kumbera. 

"We expect this to increase overall pass sales by targeting a larger market area," Kumbera wrote. "Additionally, the Algonquin pool will be offering expanded aquatic offerings for adults in 2014 which is expected to increase pool utilization and membership."

Herbster wouldn't estimate how much an aquatic center and community center would cost to build.

Herbster said the park district has had preliminary discussion of what it could do with the property if it wasn't developed including selling it or making it into a passive park.

"Other than that, we really haven't gotten to that point," Herbster said.

Herbster said the district hopes to have a decision on whether to move forward with the project in two to five years.

"There's still a long way to go," Herbster said.

By the usage numbers

2013 community pool usage numbers

• Cary Park District pool

1,350 resident season passes

150 nonresident season passes

• Algonquin community pool

Season passes (the total passes make up 1,375 members)

303 resident passes

23 nonresident passes

Daily admissions

773 recorded visits by residents

158 recorded visits by nonresidents

• Harvard Aquatic Center (includes passes for families)

131 resident passes

10 nonresident passes

• Huntley Park District Stingray Bay

Season passes

2,660 resident passes

154 nonresident passes

Daily admissions

11,707 recorded visits by residents

2,448 recorded visits by nonresidents

• McHenry Peter J. Merkel Aquatic Center

Season passes (includes family passes up to 4 people)

267 resident passes

38 nonresident passes

Daily admissions

2,385 recorded visits by residents

909 recorded visits by nonresidents

McHenry beach daily usage

1,055 recorded visits by residents

309 recorded visits by nonresidents

• Lake in the Hills lake usage

Season passes (up to a family of 5)

122 resident passes

9 nonresident passes

Daily admissions

4,594 recorded visits by residents

1,244 recorded visits by nonresidents

• Woodstock Water Works

27,115 recorded visits by residents

6,168 recorded visits by nonresidents

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