GENEVA - As Sheavoun Lambillotte dedicated the latest addition to the Geneva park system, she recalled her childhood, as well as those of many others in her generation.
Children in her demographic, she remembered, would start their days outside, returning home only to "stuff a little food into our mouths," or to "get a jar to catch fireflies."
With that in mind, Lambillotte, executive director of the Geneva Park District, said she hoped the new Hawks Hollow Nature Playground will help today's children rediscover some of those simple pleasures and reconnect with the childhood instinct to just "come out and play."
"This gives kids the opportunity to do what they used to do," she said, noting the park district hopes the new playground will have kids "getting wet, getting dirty, and getting creative."
"I apologize in advance for the extra laundry you're going to have to do," Lambillotte said.
Saturday morning, Lambillotte and about 100 others, including dozens of children, gathered at Peck Farm Park South, near the intersection of Peck Road and Kaneville Road, for a ceremony to officially open the Hawks Hollow playground to public use.
The new playground includes some traditional playground equipment, including rope ladders and a slide off of a tall clubhouse-like deck, accessible by a long ramp.
But the playground also includes more natural-feeling elements, as well.
Children can walk and splash in an artificial landscaped stream, or use their hands essentially to paint on a wall using mud.
And they can use sticks to rearrange or build up oversized birds' or muskrats' nests.
The playground is built almost entirely of wood, much of which is repurposed from fallen ash trees. And the site includes much greenery, including mature evergreen and other trees.
"There's nothing like this around in this area," Lambillotte said.
She said the addition of the playground will make Peck Farm Park "an all-day destination" for families.
The playground, which has been years in development, cost $650,000. Half of that cost was covered by a state grant.
Lambillotte said $100,000 of the remaining cost will be covered by a fundraising effort underway through the Geneva Park District Foundation. To date, $80,000 has been raised.
She said the foundation intends to raise an additional $100,000 next year by selling the opportunity for community members to have their names engraved on brick pavers at the playground.
In all, Lambillotte said the park district expects to spend about $125,000 of general taxpayer money on the project, which she said is equivalent to what the district would spend on a mid-sized traditional playground.