Posted March 23rd, 2018 by Chelsea Miller

This January I had the distinct privilege of attending the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD) and Illinois Parks and Recreation Association (IPRA) Conference: Soaring to New Heights. Most notable, IAPD is celebrating their 90 years of service “…a Legacy of Innovation and Excellence!”!


Professionals from across the state convened at the Hilton Chicago January 18th-20th 2018 to share their knowledge. 300 exhibitors showcased their services and products, including log-rolling, indoor ball courts and even the Queen (of Medieval Times). Over the course of 2 days I attended 8 of the 162 Sessions offered through the conference.

DAY 1 I think what struck me first was the sheer volume of people attending. The Hilton was packed as people filtered excitedly through the lobby either to a lower ballroom level or to the elevator lobby. The elevators allowed access the other 3 floors, which contained the majority of the scheduled sessions. After receiving my registration lanyard and complimentary chartreuse backpack (which contained helpful conference literature and CEU cards) I hurried off to the 8th floor and wound my way to the Lake Rooms for the 606 Session.

This was one of my favorite Friday sessions. Lead by the Trust for Pubic Land the session was informative and engaging. They walked us through the development of the 606 from abandoned railway to public amenity. One thing that impressed me was the sheer volume of community effort that has shaped this park, as facilitated by the Trust For Public Land. Also their willingness to adapt to a variety of situations from tailoring the snow removal program to establishing a strong relationship with the Police Districts, who now eagerly lead community engagement activities (including Halloween on the trail and a bike event in the Spring!). Most importantly how much inclusivity is valued. The 606 is open to everyone: Adults, Children, skateboarders, dogs, bikes, (facilitated) campers, star-gazers, and every entrance is wheelchair accessible. Also they had some great words of advice: “Don’t be afraid of technology”. From weather apps to trail monitoring to waste monitoring they keeps down costs through some efficient technologies.

In-between Sessions I ventured to the lower levels to explore the exhibitions. There was a great variety of vendors represented: play equipment, materials, products, Firms and even Medieval Times with their new Queen. I appreciated the hands-on displays at the Porous Pavement booths and Mondoturf. There was also a great show of technology between new park-related apps and drone exhibits.

DAY 2 lead me to a variety of informative programs. Some great talks on stream ecologies and a variety of ways to design and stabilize streams, based on their site conditions. There was also a neat talk on Urban Forest management and the monetary value of trees to a community, in addition to the environmental benefits. The City of Charleston has a remarkable story about creating public trail and a rather refreshing approach to keeping down costs and including program: they don’t say “no”. When people approach them with an idea for the park which they wish to implement, they say “OK”. As a result their efforts are volunteer-based and their costs are very low. Their trail systems are also extremely popular and beloved by locals and visitors. They said their “only limits were a failure of imagination”.

Overall this was a highly enjoyable and enlightening experience. I mainly stuck to the Park/Natural Resources sessions and (1) Marketing session. However there were session categories within: Boardsmanship, Diversity, Facilities, Finance/Information Technology, Governance/Legal, HR/Rick Management, Leadership/Management, Marketing/Communications, Recreation, Therapeutic Recreation… Definitely something for everyone who works or interfaces with Parks and Recreation.

IAPD/IAPR 2018 Swag


Below are the Conference Sessions I chose to attend and my experience with the conference.



The 606 Trail and Park System

Signature Park Planning Hitchcock Design Group and Schaumburg Park District

Retrofitting Large Landscape for Sustainability

Proactive Ecologically Compatible Management of Surface Water Features



Environmentally Sound Alternatives: Stream Ecologies (Living Water Consultants)

Data to Inform Urban Forest management to Increase Tree Canopy, Reduce Invasive Systems and Preserve Oak Ecosystems (Chicago Region Trees Initiative chicagorti.org)

Implementing Community Trail: City of Charleston

Environmental Graphics




Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn