Byron’s quarry of dreams

BYRON—Sandra Summers’ teacher was skeptical. He thought the idea of a skate park and miniature golf course in Byron would never work because it would attract the wrong crowd—stereotypical grungy teen-age skateboarders and “extreme” sports fanatics. But that’s just a stereotype.

There’s no smoking, drinking or swearing allowed on the premises of Stone Quarry Recreation Park, home of “The Rock” Skate Park and a miniature golf course, and future home to a community center, basketball courts, batting cages, sand volleyball pits, a water playground, and an amphitheater. The park was designed and implemented by local Byron teens.

The Adult Teen Activity Committee (ATAC), a sub-group of Byron Community Revitalization (BCR), formulated surveys, worked with the Byron Forest Preserve board and staff, helped plan the layout of the park, and applied for and was awarded more than $100,000 in grants to build Stone Quarry Recreation Park.

“Nothing was done by adults for our grants…we wrote them,” said Summers, an ATAC co-chairman. “So one really cool thing is it was all done by kids. We do our homework, and we make sure that we have all of our bases covered.”

Jan Sealby, Stone Quarry Recreation Park manager, said: “Without ATAC, this wouldn’t have been a reality. We’re just trying to make it a real kid-friendly atmosphere.”

The park is on 80 acres of Byron Forest Preserve land across the street from PrairieView Golf Course in Byron. Local kids can ride their bikes to the park, thanks to an extended bike path along North German Church Road.

ATAC, which received the Achievement of the Year Award from the Byron Chamber of Commerce and which has gained attention from Gov. Rod Blagojevich, is composed of teen-agers from the Byron area dedicated to revamping the Byron community.

Summers, 16, has been a member of ATAC for about five years. She said the original group that planned Stone Quarry was often buried under grant applications and survey results. “These girls had palm pilots and schedules I’d never like to see in my life,” Summers said.

The skate park opened last September while the miniature golf course opened this summer. “It was the coolest thing for all of us because it had been a piece of paper for so long, and then it became reality,” Summers said. “We were almost in awe.”

The Rock Skate Park is an indoor/outdoor facility with beginner, intermediate and advanced areas. The park offers half pipes, quarter pipes, pyramids, fun boxes, and round and flat grinding rails. The indoor section of the park will remain open throughout the winter, and music is played both inside and outside. Local bands sometimes perform at the park.

The skate park was a write-in on the surveys ATAC sent to local teens. “None of the ATAC members were skaters, so [skaters] designed the skate park themselves,” Summers said.

Tori Desplinter, 17, who works at the skate park, has been riding and skating since he was 11. He said the park offers a good alternative to Rockford’s “Pit.” “It’s great; I’m glad they made something like this out here,” Desplinter said.

Admission to the skate park is $2 and fall/winter hours are 4-8 p.m. Friday, and noon-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The skate park offered free admission Sept. 14 in celebration of its one-year anniversary. Lock-ins and school vacations are also scheduled.

The miniature golf course played host to more than 1,300 mini-putters this summer. The first nine holes of the 18-hole course are handicapped-accessible, with lowered brick walls to allow wheelchairs to pass over easily. The course came in pieces, and Byron Forest Preserve workers put them together like a puzzle. The puzzle-like composition allows the course to be portable in case it is moved to a different location in the park in the future.

The miniature golf course has a Southwestern theme with a horse-drawn carriage, an old wagon, a wagon wheel, a replica of an old railroad car tipped on its side, and an “explosives” box. The course features waterfalls, sand traps and various obstacles. Some obstacles are moveable, and the holes change locations so golfers never play the same course twice. The 18th hole, for example, appears as a figure eight, with two overlapping levels, a downhill ramp, and a couple of boulders as obstacles.

Admission to miniature golf is $5 for adults, $3 for children (second game is half price for both), and fall hours are noon-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The course will frequently play host to miniature golf tournaments, and is also in search of an official name. Deadline for name submissions is Nov. 1. If golfers score a 50 or below on the course, they get their name on the “Wall of Fame” in the concession trailer.

The concession trailer features pizza, slushies, ice cream bars, Popsicles, ice cream cones and hot dogs. The plan is to have the concession stand move to the community center once construction on the building is complete. The community center will also offer drive-up concessions, soft-serve ice cream, a dining area, a main office, air hockey, pool tables, a party room and picnic tables. The park is also renovating an old barn that will serve as an entrance to the park.

The new water playground will feature a waterway arch, sunflower trio water shooters, a “wet saloon,” a water tower, horse cannons, and a water-shooting cactus.

“People don’t think something cool can happen in Byron right now,” Summers said. “But people who do go out there are really impressed. I think the word of mouth is getting out there. I think the community is impressed, to say the least. It’s just going to be a place for teens to get away from their parents, but also a place that parents can trust.”

Summers’ skeptical teacher and his kids played a round of mini-golf a couple weeks ago. Summers said her teacher said it was the complete opposite of what he expected it to be.

For more information on ATAC or the park, call 234-8900.

Directions: From Rockford, take South Main Street to Route 2. Take Route 2 to the first main intersection in Byron and turn left onto Illinois Route 72/North German Church Road. Take North German Church Road across the river. The park is ahead on the left at 6845 N. German Church Rd. Don’t be surprised if there is construction—the community center is still being built.

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