Dozens gather to mark 50 years of H-F Park District

A 50-year timeline marks the many successes of the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District. (Provided image)
A 50-year timeline marks the many successes of the
Homewood-Flossmoor Park District.
 Click
on the image to see a larger version.
(Provided image)

January 6 was a day filled with memories as friends, supporters and past and current staff and board members of the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District gathered at the Dolphin Lake Clubhouse to mark the organization’s 50th anniversary.

H-F Park District’s outstanding facilities, exceptional programs and terrific staff were all applauded throughout the afternoon celebration. 

Before making a toast, park board president Steve Johnson told the audience of more than 100 people that “the greatest gift the early H-F Park District gave us — that today’s H-F Park District strives to emulate — is fostering a true sense of community.”

 
Johnson said the park district “isn’t just grounds, facilities and programs, and Homewood-Flossmoor isn’t just different villages. It’s a place where, regardless of your age, how much you make, the color of your skin, we all live, work and play together as one.”
 

  Current and former Homewood-
  Flossmoor Park District commissioners
  gathered at the 50th anniversary
  celebration were, from left, Brent
  Bachus, Christina Jackson, Pat Nevins,
  Debbie Dennison, Mike Nussbaum,
  Steve Johnson and Jon Gosse.
 (Photos
  by Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
 

Once the H-F Park District was organized, the staff was able to start work on building what the party guests recognized as a most outstanding park district. Their sentiments are shared by the National Recreation and Park Association, which awarded H-F Park District the 2018 Gold Medal for Excellence as the most outstanding park district in the country for communities under 30,000 population.

 

Mick Pope, the first executive director, and his wife, Sally, came from the western suburbs to join the celebration. He shared his memories of the early beginnings of the park district as he straddled between the Homewood and the Flossmoor park boards and their efforts.

Sally and Mick Pope joined the 50th anniversary celebration for the H-F Park District. He was the district's first executive director.
  Sally and Mick Pope joined
  the 50th anniversary
  celebration for the H-F Park
  District. He was the district's
  first executive director.

“They had some terrific quality board members, and the question was not if it would work here, but whether we could make it work much better by combining the two districts. That had never been done in the state,” Pope said.

 
He worked for a year serving the two boards, and after those 12 months he asked the boards whether they would agree to combine efforts.
 

“It was obvious we needed, for economy of scale, to formally join each other,” he said.

 

When Pope convinced the park board to take on it’s first major purchase of the private club facilities with a pool and lake at the intersection of 183rd Street and Governors Highway, “this really got the park district moving into the modern era.”

 

Although the facilities were “pretty much worn out, we fixed it up and made do and people really responded. We had to close the pool several days because the admission was at capacity,” Pope recalled.

 

As a youngster, Flossmoor Mayor Paul Braun spent his summer days there.

 

“I used to hang out at Dolphin Lake. My parents would drop me off in the morning and come back for me in the afternoon. It was great!”

 
Bob Haderlein of Homewood recalled his winter days playing hockey when 

Merchants Park would be flooded for ice skating. Willow and Flossmoor Parks were also great skating areas.

 
Greg Meyer served as the recreation director for seven years before being named the executive director, a position he held for 25 years. He hired Mike Nussbaum to coach T-baseball. Later, Nussbaum would serve as a park commissioner for 12 years.
 
“I used Apollo Park before it was a park,” Nussbaum recalled. “Our house backed up to that field and we’d play baseball for hours.” Now the park is usually full of kids playing on the three soccer fields, the three softball fields, the two baseball fields, the playground and the tennis courts.
 

“To me, that’s what the parks are all about — young kids outside,” Nussbaum said.

 

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A great community deserves a great newspaper. The HF Chronicle was created in June 2014 as an online publication. In December 2015 we began monthly print publication, too. Our mission is to chronicle the life of our community — news by, for, and about the people of Homewood and Flossmoor, Illinois.

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