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  • A Brief History

    The Pleasure Driveway and Park District of Peoria, organized in 1894, was the first park system formed in Illinois. Seventy years later in 1963, the City of Peoria Playground and Recreation Department merged with the Park District, thus expanding the potential program and facility responsibilities of the Park District.

    Today the Peoria Park District’s boundaries encompass approximately 60 square miles in Peoria County. Our park and open space holdings total nearly 9,000 acres in the City of Peoria, West Peoria, Peoria Heights and outlying townships.Much of the land was acquired through matching grants from the federal Land-Water-Conservation Fund, the Illinois Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development program and many generous gifts and donations. The Peoria Park District ranks first in the state and is one of the top public park systems in the nation based on its ratio of open-space holdings to population.

    Besides being one of the oldest and largest park districts in the state, the Peoria Park District has also been recognized as an outstanding example of what parks and recreation is all about. In 2010, the Peoria Park District received the National Recreation and Park Association’s Gold Medal Award. We are also one of first Illinois park districts to be accredited as a Distinguished Park District. We are currently undergoing a strategic planning process which has let us to refocus our mission, values and priorities as follows:


    We contribute to a healthy and vibrant Peoria community by responsibly using our District resources to offer high quality parks and recreation experiences to those who live, work and play in our District. ​


    Building on our commitment to our PRAISE model for customer service, we agree to uphold the following values in our work. We will be:
    Professional: well-trained and proficient at all levels of our organization.
    Respectful: considerate of others and honest in our interactions.
    Accountable: transparent and responsible for our decisions and their impact on our District, our community, and the environment.
    Innovative: open to new approaches that achieve better outcomes and  that make our District more sustainable for the future.
    Safe: proactive in providing safe spaces and places for those who work and play in our District parks and facilities.
    Equitable: focused on equitable access to parks, facilities, and programs that promote healthy and active lifestyles across our diverse community.


    We will be responsible stewards of all District resources. We will focus on services that make the greatest impact. We will create a culture that values and supports each other, those we serve and our community.​


    The Peoria Park District’s annual operating budget is approximately $40 million. Increased emphasis on public and private partnerships over the past several years has resulted in significant funds to assist in the completion of noteworthy projects ranging from a hiking trail to an inner city aquatic facility to a far north neighborhood park. Donations from local corporations, organizations and individuals have also provided valuable support. Approximately 35% of our budget is derived from property taxes, with the remainder from other revenue sources including fees and charges, grants and donations.

    By focusing efforts toward developing partnerships with other public and private organizations or businesses in order to expand services, the District has been able to multiply its development dollars. For instance, the District partnered with a local hospital, a local foundation, and the City of Peoria to develop the RiverPlex, a 120,000 square foot recreation and wellness center. The District has twice in recent years partnered with local developers for the development of neighborhood parks. Future plans include completing the hiking/biking trail through Peoria, as well as a trail connecting two outlying bluff facilities with the assistance of state and federal grants, and improving Peoria’s Zoo with funding from the Peoria Zoological Society.

    Park Board

    The Peoria Park District is governed by a volunteer, elected Board of Trustees. Six trustees from three separate voting districts are elected for four-year terms. The Park Board President is elected at large for a four-year term. Board meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. The public is invited to attend.


    The District operates with a full-time staff of 161 people (as of 12/1/16 consisting of administrators, recreation programmers, police and facility maintenance personnel. In the summer and during other peak-activity periods, the Park District employs more than 1,400 people to fill part-time jobs. The staff at every level is extremely service-oriented, responding to the needs of the community.

    To keep pace with community growth and desires, the Peoria Park District employs a professional design staff to oversee the planning, design and construction of new parks, as well as improvements to existing parks and facilities. In order to meet the expanding recreational needs of Peoria area residents, the Park District forms cooperative agreements with a variety of local concerns, both public and private, finding solutions to problems arising with specific-interest leisure programs. The agreements range from formal policy statements and written contracts to mutual understandings and verbal agreements. Whether facilities or recreation programmers are needed, the Park District is prepared to help. In keeping with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the district also makes reasonable accommodation to disabled individuals who meet essential eligibility requirements.

    Peoria Park District - A Gold Medal Park District

    gold_medalThe Peoria Park District has been honored with the highest and most prestigious honor attainable by a park and recreation agency: the 2010 Gold Medal Grand Award.

    The Gold Medal Award – considered the highest and most prestigious honor attainable by a park and recreation agency – is presented annually to communities throughout the United States for excellence in park and recreation administration by the American Academy for Park & Recreation Administration in partnership with the National Recreation & Park Association and Musco Lighting LLC.

    These awards honor communities that demonstrate excellence in long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development, and agency recognition. Each agency is judged on its ability to address the needs of those it serves through the collective energies of citizens, staff and elected officials. A panel of five parks and recreation professionals reviews and judges all application materials. Judges are chosen for their considerable experiences and knowledge in parks and recreation on both local and national levels.

    The Peoria Park District previously received the National Gold Medal Award in 1971, 1994 and 2001. The District received finalist honors in 1971, 1979, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2001 2007, 2008, and 2009.

    After submitting a lengthy written application, the Peoria Park District was again selected as one of the final four candidates for the National Gold Medal Award in Class II (population 100,000– 250,000). Other finalists in this division included the South Suburban Park and Recreation District, Colorado; City of Peoria, Arizona; and City of Lakewood Department of Community Resources, Colorado.

    Finalists are required to produce and submit a 12-minute video providing audio/visual demonstration of the material provided in the entry application for final judging for the Grand Award.