On March 30, 1974, the referendum for the creation of the Round Lake Area Park District was passed. The Park District proposal was sponsored by the Round Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and endorsed by officials of the five surrounding communities of Round Lake, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake Heights, Round Lake Park and Hainesville.


Five commissioners were elected. At their first meeting in June, 1974, the commissioners decided to join the Illinois Association of Park Districts. The total membership fee at that time was $25, so each commissioner donated $5 to cover the cost.

The five elected commissioners' philosophy was to provide total and comprehensive recreation for the community and job opportunities for local residents. With that basic philosophy, the commissioners and staff through the years have worked to bring excellence and growth to our Park District.

To implement that philosophy, the District presented four programs by the end of December, 1974. With the assistance of the Junior Leaders, the District's first programs included a senior citizen excursion, a mini-circus and a Christmas Eve crafts show. The first asset acquired by the District was a Santa Claus suit.

In March of 1975, the Park District presented its first regular schedule of events, including preschool arts and crafts, gym and dance, creative music, gymnastics, drama, baton, a basketball clinic, co-ed volleyball, open gym night, "Slimnastics," needlework and bridge.

On July 1, 1975, the District moved into its office at 246 Cedar Lake Road (the former Jones Store). This building provided a reception area, administrative office space and recreation areas.

The Park District held its Grand Opening on August 16, 1975, to show the community the new center and introduce the preliminary plans for a new park. The park would soon be named Shag Bark Nature Preserve.

Before long the facilities were inadequate to accommodate the programming. On November 1, the District acquired the adjoining storefront (former Little Jones), broke through the wall and was able to begin programming at both 246 and 240 Cedar Lake Road.

In 1976, the first brochure with 20 handwritten pages and 20 programs is sent out to residents.

The District quickly outgrew the facility on Cedar Lake Road. In February 1977, the District purchased a former Avon Hardware store on Rollins Road in Round Lake Heights. This new location would provide 1,500 square feet of administrative space and 10,000 square feet of recreational space. The District relocated its headquarters to the new site on May 31, 1977.

In 1978, Center activities again increased dramatically, to more than 100 programs, generating more than $100,000 in program fees.

In 1982, the District accepted a 35-acre donation of Hart's Wood's property opposite Hart's Hill Park.

In 1983, a grant from Wells Fargo made possible the construction of an exercise trail along the Commonwealth Edison easement property.

Also in 1983, the District purchased Renwood Country Club, which then became a public golf course.

The Special Recreation Association of Round Lake and Zion (SRARLZ) was formed in 1986 to provide recreation opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Lindenhurst Park District joined SRARLZ in 1990. Later, in 2000, SRARLZ became the Special Recreation Services of Northern Lake County and added Waukegan Park District.

In 1987, a new 39,000-square-foot Community Center on Hart Road was dedicated. The facility included offices, a gymnasium, locker rooms, gymnastic and wrestling rooms, a senior center, the early childhood development center, and an ultra-modern dance studio. In 1988 the Fitness Plus Center opened at the Community Center. The fall of 1988 saw the development of the remaining area around the Community Center, providing a soccer field, playground, horseshoe pit, volleyball area, and picnic pavilion.

Parks added in the 1980s:

  • East End Park (1981)
  • Fairview Park, Gateway Park, Jean Hain Park, Whitewood Park and Whipple O' Parrot Park (1982)
  • Ellis Park, Greenview Park, Idlewide Park, Kingsbury Park, Sunset Park (1984)
  • Diamond Jubilee Park, Lakewood Park, Washington Street Tennis Courts (1985)
  • Hart's Hill, Hart's Wood Park, Highland Park, Morningside Park, Oak Estates Natural Area (1987)
  • Cedar Valley Park and Natural Area (1989)
  • Renehan Park (1988)

In 1990, a lighted golf driving range was built at Renwood, and a bike trail running from East End Park to Cedar Lake Road was completed.

The year 1992 saw the completion of the Aquatic, Fitness, and Nature Center. The Aquatic Center features an outdoor pool area, which has a zero-depth entrance that is great for young children, as well as a deeper area with a diving board and swimming lanes. The Aquatic Center also has a kid area for children six and under with a splash pad. The Prairie Grass Nature Museum is home to turtles and snakes and features displays about local wildlife.

In 1999 the Warming House/Concession Building at Hart's Hill is opened and provided warmth and nourishment for sledders during the cold winter months. The sledding area includes a large hill and a smaller one for younger children.

Parks added to the District in the 1990s are:

  • Viking Park, Willow Ridge Park (1991)
  • Heatherwood Park, Fox Chase Park (1992)
  • Avon Baseball Complex, Bright Meadow Park and Natural Area (1993)
  • Country Walk Park and Natural Area, Oak Tree Park, Silver Oaks Park and Natural Area (1994)
  • Wilma Turner Park (1995)
  • Sutton on the Lake Park (1997)
  • Fairfield Park (1998)

In 2000, the majority of half-day preschool classes relocated into the Dell House, more commonly known as Site II. It was a large two-story cedar home with a basement and in-ground pool. The park district renovated the house, and filled in the pool to create additional classroom space.

In October 2003 the Park District adopted its Master Plan which covered many initiatives for the district. Some of its short-term goals, (1-3 years) included facility improvements, land acquisition, the completion of The Teen Center renovation and the construction of a 50,000-square-foot Sports Center.

In June, 2004, the Park District opened its Teen Center located at 2071 Orchard Lane. The first program held there was the District's Teen Camp. Nearly 100 teens attended the camp every day.

In June 2005, the Park District opened its 50,000-square-foot Sports Center. The main amenities included classrooms, multipurpose rooms, an indoor gymnasium and an indoor soccer field. In July, a climbing wall was added.

On July 31, 2005, the Board of Commissioners renamed the District's Community Center to the Robert W. Rolek Community Center. Mr. Rolek, who served as the Executive Director of the District from 1980 to 1995, was instrumental in building the District into one of the leading Park District agencies in the state.

In May 2006, the District completed a 5,500-square-foot addition to its Community Center. The addition consisted of two classrooms for the Child Development Center and a large 2,700-square-foot multipurpose room. Later that summer, the Park District constructed a Ropes Course at Hart Woods which includes both low and high elements.

In 2008 a KaBoom! project was completed outside the Community Center. With Discover Card as a sponsor, over 500 volunteers in one day constructed a skate park, a playground, a planter and benches; as well as painting the split rail fence surrounding Hart's Woods Park.

One month later, the District adopted its next Master Plan to guide the District for up to the next 10 years in property acquisitions, development, program initiatives and maintenance of existing facilities, parks and assets. The Master Plan was able to incorporate a significant number of initiatives and recommendations received through a community needs assessment also completed in 2008.

In 2009, the District was able to partner with Comcast for a Comcast Cares Community Day in which over 500 Comcast and area volunteers performed an amazing amount of work in beautifying District facilities and open space.

Then later in 2009, the District received yet another IDNR grant to purchase 6 acres adjacent to the Sports Center to develop into more outdoor sports fields.

In the fall of 2009 the District was the first ever state agency to receive the Joint Distinguished Agency Accreditation from the Illinois Parks and Recreation Association. The accreditation required a successful evaluation of the District operations, programs and services.

Parks added in the 2000s:

  • Hook Lake Boat Launch, North Shore Park and Skate Park, Orchard Park (2002)
  • Cranberry Lake Park and Natural Area (2003)
  • Chesapeake Trails Park, Heron View Park, Meadowview Park, Prairie Walk Park (2004)
  • Bradford Park, Greystone Park, Hampton Park (2005)
  • Amarias Park, Fox Glen Park (2006)
  • Kristina Park, Long Lake Park and Natural Area, Raymond Park (2007)
  • Fairfield Sports Complex, Lakewood Grove Park, Monarch Flats Park, Parkside Park, Townline Park, Tomahawk Park (2008)

In 2011 the Huebner Fishery Management Foundation is established and has its first Family Fishing event in 2013.

In 2011 the Round Lake Area Park District partnered with Richardson's Adventure Farm to have the RLAPD logo prominently displayed on a 1.9 mile maze at the Farm. That year the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD) recognized the Round Lake Area Park District and Richardson Adventure Farm with the Best Friend of Illinois Parks Award.

More than 500 volunteers from Discover, the Round Lake Area Park District and Friends of the Round Lake Area Parks Foundation; organizers from KaBOOM!; and residents of the Round Lake Community joined forces on September 23, 2011 to build a new playground outside the Round Lake Area Park District Sports Center. The new playground design was based on drawings created by children from the community. In addition to the playground, they painted the interior of the Sports Center, built planter benches and regular benches, spread topsoil, seed, and blanket on the south end of the Special Recreation Building, and built a theater stage with benches behind the Special Recreation Building for outdoor plays.

In 2014 the Fairfield Disc Golf Course was redesigned and now is two 18-hole courses. The course is considered one of the best in the state.

In 2015 the Shaw Subdivision Improvement Club donated the site where Shaw Park is created. With community input, plans included a playground for 5- to 12-year-olds, a playground for 2- to 5-year-olds, a walking trail, a half-court basketball court, fitness equipment and a shelter, which was built with a $20,000 grant from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

In June 2018, renovations were completed on the lobby and registration areas of the Robert W. Rolek Community Center.

In 2019, renovations were done at the Sports Center. Meeting Rooms A & B were converted into new preschool classrooms with half-day preschool classes being offered there beginning in fall 2019.

Parks added in the 2010s:

  • John Huebner Jr Park (2010)
  • Cedarwood Circle Park, Shaw Park (2014)
  • Huebner Shores Park (2015)

The Park District built two new pavilions outside the Community Center in July 2020, providing more opportunities for outdoor programs, especially important during the ongoing pandemic.

Sports Center Park was completed in Fall 2021. Improvements included a new, accessible splash pad, sand volleyball court, pickle ball/tennis courts, bocce ball courts, and a relocated full- size soccer field with natural grass surface. The Park District received a $400,000 matching grant for the renovation of Sports Center Park, part of the Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) Grant Program which provides matching dollars for outdoor recreation space projects throughout Illinois. The Park District matched that amount, as required by grant guideline. Input for park improvements was gathered through a community input process in 2019/2020.

In addition, a new Skate Park and BMX track was installed at North Shore Park in Round Lake Beach in Fall 2021. The new Skate Park replaced the existing Skate Park.

In 2022, the Round Lake Area Park District joined the Special Recreation Association of Central Lake County and remains dedicated to providing recreational opportunities to all.

The Park District remodeled the Children's Neighborhood Museum and the revamped museum re-opened March 1, 2023. The museum is aimed at young children, from crawlers to 6 years old. The museum is a tot-sized replica of a town built especially for kids. It is a place where they can drive a car to the market, gas up at the local gas station, be a doctor, lead a classroom and explore in the STEAM area.

In 2023, the District built heated driving range bays at Renwood Golf Course to encourage use year-round. Also in 2023, the District installed a self-service kayak kiosk at Huebner Shores Park with Huebner Fishery Management Funds to encourage outdoor recreation on Round Lake.

Also in 2023, the Round Lake Area Park District received a Best of the Best Award from the Illinois Association of Park Districts for its partnership with the Huebner Fishery Management Foundation.

In 2024, the Park District is building Hero Park, its first all-inclusive playground. Also in 2024, the Park District is preparing to embark on its next master plan.

As of 2024, the Round Lake Area Park District owns more than 700 acres of land for the enjoyment of area residents and the preservation of open space and maintains over 50 park/playground sites. The District offers a diverse range of programs from preschool age to senior. The District operates an 18-hole public golf course, Children's interactive Museum, Nature Museum, and outdoor aquatic facility.