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Paths, parks beckon in Algonquin, LITH

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Whether it’s pedaling, splashing, skating or simply admiring the wildflowers that motivates you to take in the great outdoors, Algonquin and Lake in the Hills offer reasons to come out and play.

A hallmark of the area is the convergence of a number of village-, conservation district- and forest preserve district-maintained bike paths.

Algonquin, in particular, has developed a trail system that not only connects to major arterials, but also takes path-goers throughout the Fox River-straddling town.

Steve Ludwig, parks and forestry superintendent for Algonquin, said the paths are both challenging and scenic.

“We’re a river community that has a great change in elevation,” he said. “You can go from a lowland park with a Class A stream and ride all the way up the hill to Hill Climb Park, where there’s just this incredible view.”

Algonquin owns and maintains 33.5 miles of trails, all paved.

About 13 more miles of paved and roadside paths wind in and around Lake in the Hills, connecting with the Algonquin bike path at Harvest Gate, with Huntley’s path at Haligus and Reed roads, with the Crystal Lake path at Miller and Randall roads, and with the Prairie Trail at Oak Street and Grace Drive, said Trudy Wakeman, director of parks and recreation for Lake in the Hills.

The popular Prairie Trail, called the Fox River Trail in Kane County, extends south to Aurora, north to Wisconsin, and even west to Hebron via a spur, said Wendy Kummerer, communications manager for the McHenry County Conservation District.

“The Prairie Trail gets thousands of users a year,” Kummerer said. “You can [in-line skate], bike, run … it connects eight communities.

“The other unique thing is that it has its own volunteer group that patrols for safety,” she said. “We have about 60 volunteers who ride in pairs.”

Seventeen miles of the Prairie Trail are paved.

“People use the Prairie Trail to get to destinations or to go to the local ice cream store,” Kummerer said. “It does appeal to a variety of ages and audiences.”

Of course, paths aren’t the only outdoor offering in Algonquin and Lake in the Hills, both of which boast great parks, unique water features and more.

Algonquin parks

Algonquin owns 666 acres of open space at 21 parcels. Ludwig said 154 acres are developed parks.

Two favorites are Riverfront and Cornish parks, both of which border the Fox River.

Riverfront Park, at 201 N. Harrison St., is the site of free Thursday night concerts throughout the summer. Cornish Park, at 101 S. Harrison St., boasts fishing, a gazebo, playground, trail and a pedestrian bridge spanning Crystal Creek. Both feature canoe and kayak drop-in or take-out points. Riverfront is north of the Algonquin dam; Cornish is south.

Hill Climb Park, at 801 Circle Drive, Algonquin, sits atop the Huntington Drive hill, and as Ludwig said, it affords terrific views as well as hints of nostalgia. In the early days of the automobile, Algonquin was renowned for its hill climb contest, the bragging rights from which put winning car-makers ahead of their competition.

Accordingly, the playground at 12.85-acre Hill Climb Park is transportation-themed.

Lake in the Hills parks

Those in Lake in the Hills also have terrific amenities at more than 30 park sites. These include Barbara Key Park, a 27.5-acre parcel off the west side of Pyott Road south of the Lake in the Hills Airport. Barbara Key Park abuts MCCD’s Lake in the Hills Fen – a roughly 400-acre site that features a gravel prairie, hanging fen, sedge meadow and a segment of Crystal Creek.

It’s great for bird-watching, picnicking and hiking.

“On the opposite end of town is Sunset Park, which is our sports complex,” Wakeman said. “Any sport you want, you could probably play it out at Sunset – from baseball to soccer, tennis, basketball, cricket … ice skating in winter. There’s a big open space for kite flying.”

The park, which also features a splash pad, is located at 5200 Miller Road and covers 125 acres, 9.5 of them dedicated to those with four-footed, tail-wagging friends.

Lake in the Hills also boasts two skate parks, a handicapped-accessible baseball field with a rubberized surface, an in-the-works nine-hole disc golf course that is scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend at Fischer Park, and its namesake lake – actually, four lakes.

Goose and Willow lakes and Lake Scott are shallow and used primarily for fishing and wildlife habitat.

Woods Creek Lake is home to two swimming beaches – Butch Hagele at 71 Hilltop Drive and Indian Trial at 228 Indian Trail. Follow Acorn Lane to Indian Trail or Willow Street to Hilltop Drive. Paddle boats and kayaks can be rented at Indian Trail.

For swimming conditions and fees, visit www.lith.org/beaches.

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