State's parks offers opportunities for staycations

Jeanette Kendall/ TimesNewspapers
Three women ride horses at the Moraine View State Recreation Area in Leroy, which is just east of Bloomington.

Stan Weimer touched on the free resources available at the Fondulac District Library where he gave a presentation Thursday about another type of free resource — the state’s parks.

Weimer, who works for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, presented a staycation program to a small group. He distributed information, including a guide book to Illinois’ state parks, to those in attendance.

“The main thing is to kind of spread how, you as the public, can find information and go to our state areas,” he said.

The Illinois State Parks magazine breaks information down into regions: northwest, northeast, east-central, west-central and southern. Peoria is in the northwest region. 

In addition to 125 parks, the magazine lists information about lodging and dining, things to do, nature and wildlife, planning a visit, the Illinois State Museum, photography, preservation and contains a map.

Weimer talked about a few of the parks, including Rend Lake in southern Illinois, which he said is a nice area.

Weimer is stationed at Spring Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area in Manito.

“I enjoy every day. I 

similar to a wiffle ball, but slightly smaller. The lower net and wiffle ball allow the game to be accessible to people of all ages and abilities.”

In addition to the competitive events, in which participants can try for a gold, silver or bronze medal, there are also “Just for Fun” events, including a climbing wall, fitness walk, washer toss, bean bags and Texas Hold ‘Em.

Most of the events take place at the RiverPlex in Peoria, but events also are held in East Peoria, Washington, Mackinaw, Pekin, Bartonville, Brimfield and Edwards.

In East Peoria, the events are at the Fon du Lac Park District,  ROC Ice Cream & Golf and the Fon du Lac Golf Course.

Schultz said a goal for 2014 is to showcase the area’s park districts.

For example, Schultz said this year the Peoria Park District added an adventure series to the Senior Games to showcase W.H. Sommer Park.

“It’s a park that’s not typically open to the public. You usually have to have some type of event to access that site. ... It’s a beautiful park,” Schultz said.

Schultz said the Senior Games are broken down into four areas — athletics, adventure, arts and Just for Fun.

The cost to register for the Senior Games is $35 and includes four social activities as well.

An opening celebration begins at Dozer Park May 21 for a “Senior Games Night.” The gates open at 5:30 p.m. and participants will see a Senior Games Shining Stars Parade followed by a feast.  

There is a fine arts reception from 5:30-7:30 p.m. May 23 at the newly opened Noble Center for Park District Administration (formerly Lakeview Museum). Hors d’oeuvres will be offered.

The hiking adventure, previously mentioned, and a luncheon, will both take place May 25 at W.H. Sommer Park. The luncheon is planned in conjunction with Pioneer Days taking place that day from 1-4 p.m. at the park.

Anywhere from 275-450 people register for the Senior Games, Schultz said. Frey is one of these people. Last year he entered 12 events and won seven gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze medal.

“It’s just really a fun opportunity to meet people. Last year we had several states, eight to 10 states involved. Two years ago we had almost 500 people involved,” Frey said.

Schultz said the Heart of Illinois Senior Games is not a qualifying competition, but other states have qualifying games. Still, the games in central Illinois attract people from other states.

“A lot of people from other states like to join ours because it’s practice. And they build a network of friends. It’s kind of like they make their rounds across the country,” she said.

One man who called Schultz recently told her he wants to win a medal in every state’s Senior Games.

In total, there are about 300,000 people in the Senior Games network, Schultz said.

“It’s the best-kept secret in sports really,” Schultz said. “When you look at those numbers, it’s pretty amazing. When the National Senior Games was held this year, I think they had 14,000-15,000 participants. The actual Olympics, which occurs on a four-year cycle, has about 13,000.”

Volunteers, fundraising and sponsors are integral to the success of the Senior Games, Schultz said. 

For more information, to volunteer or register, visit, or call Schultz at 681-2860. The registration deadline is May 14.

Schultz is new to her role with the Senior Games. She said her personal mission is to get people active. Another event she hopes to achieve her mission with is the 3rd Annual HOI Senior Softball Tournament May 31-June 1. To enter a team, call Schultz at 681-2860.